Focus of Bloomington’s “fragile” farmers market in 2020: Decisions on time, manner and place

cropped 12-09-2019 farmers IMG_2397
Bloomington’s farmers market advisory council (FMTAC) takes a vote Monday night on a recommendation that the percentage of gross sales that food and beverage artisans pay to the market be reduced from 10 to 5 percent in 2020, with a goal of establishing a fixed fee on par with that paid by farm vendors. FMTAC did not take a vote for or against privatization of the market. (Dave Askins/Beacon)

On Jan. 9 next year, Bloomington’s board of park commissioners will make a decision about the future of the city-sponsored market, which last year featured 121 farm vendors and 17 food and beverage artisans. Continue reading “Focus of Bloomington’s “fragile” farmers market in 2020: Decisions on time, manner and place”

Decision on Bloomington farmers market future to be made in January: “The First Amendment has not changed since July.”

cropped 12-07-2019 farmers market IMG_2373
City council chambers were packed on Saturday afternoon for a panel discussion on the future of Bloomington’s farmers market. (Dave Askins/Beacon)

A decision about if and how Bloomington’s farmers market will operate next year won’t come until Jan. 9. That announcement was made by Mary Catherine Carmichael, director of public engagement for the city of Bloomington, to a crowd that packed city council chambers on Saturday afternoon. Continue reading “Decision on Bloomington farmers market future to be made in January: “The First Amendment has not changed since July.””

Uncertain future for Bloomington farmers market, still no decision on charges against protestors

At Monday’s meeting of the farmers market advisory council, held in Bloomington’s city council chambers, few answers about the future of the market could be gleaned from the group’s discussion. That’s partly because the group’s role is just advisory, to the city’s four-member board of park commissioners.

Department administrator for the parks and recreation department, Paula McDevitt, told the advisory council “[W]e do not have an announcement tonight about the future of the market…”

What makes the future uncertain has been a season of protests against a vendor with alignment to white-supremacist groups. The market was  suspended for two weeks in late July amid concerns about possible violence.

At Monday’s meeting, the market’s coordinator, Marcia Veldman, said attendance was off by about half compared to previous years. The last couple of years, the market has seen around a quarter million visitors in the course of a season, according to the city of Bloomington’s data portal.

For several vendors, the timeframe for making a decision about whether sell at the market next year is short. Rebecca Vadas is a honey vendor who also sits on the farmers market advisory council. She said at Monday’s meeting that she had to make a decision by mid-December. One of the decisions she has to make is how many bees to buy. “We’re all at a crossroads,” she said.

Bruce McCallister, who chaired Monday’s meeting, said after meeting with vendors and listening to them, “My takeaway was there are a lot of people really hurting [financially and personally] from this season and a sense of urgency to try and address that before next year.” Continue reading “Uncertain future for Bloomington farmers market, still no decision on charges against protestors”

Consequence of farmers market closure: Extra $50 permit from county health department for alternate locations

Vendors who moved to a different location during the recent two-week suspension of Bloomington’s farmers market had to get a $50 temporary permit from the county health department.

Cropped 08.03.2019 chilis IMG_0417
Susan Welsand, the Chile Woman, was exuberant on Saturday Aug. 3, 2019 at the alternate location for farmers market vendors behind the east-side Bloomingfoods in the former Kmart parking lot.  (Dave Askins/Beacon)

That was the news from Penny Caudill, the county’s health administrator, as delivered to Monroe County commissioners at their regular Wednesday morning meeting.

Permits from the health department for vending at a farmers market are issued to individual vendors not the market as a general site, Caudill told The Beacon.

Caudill said her department had reviewed whether it would be possible to waive the fee for the temporary event permits, which her department issued to the displaced vendors. It wasn’t possible, she said. Continue reading “Consequence of farmers market closure: Extra $50 permit from county health department for alternate locations”

City of Bloomington: Farmers market to reopen at usual time, place this Saturday

After announcing on July 29 that Bloomington’s farmers market would be suspended for the following two Saturdays, Mayor John Hamilton issued a press release on Tuesday Aug. 13 that announced the resumption of the farmers market.

Cropped 08.13.2019 farmers market - 1 (2)
The view northwest towards the City of Bloomington’s farmers market venue from the Morton Street parking garage. In the foreground is part of the 2013 sculpture “Illuminated Fruit” by  Andrew Huddleston and Amy Brier (Dave Askins/Beacon)

The farmers market will re-open on Saturday, August 17 from 8 a.m. to 1 p.m. at Showers Common, the usual time and place.

The general background for the temporary market closure was described this way in the City’s initial press release: “Since the recent public discussion of ties between a vendor at the market and white nationalist causes and groups, the City has identified increasing threats to public safety.”

The press release also hinted at more concrete reasons: “…[I]nformation gathered identifying threats of specific individuals with connections to past white nationalist violence, present the potential for future clashes.”

Tuesday’s release describes several measures meant to improve security and make people feel safe:

  • Cameras to monitor the site
  • Two public streets will be closed to traffic during market hours. The idea is  to create a larger “comfort zone” for the market crowd. (Morton Street from 7th Street to just south of the Smallwood garage entrance, and 7th Street between Morton and the B-Line Trail; 8th Street will be closed west of the market to the entrance of the Cook Medical Center).
  • Police presence will be increased.
  • New “market ambassadors” will welcome market visitors.
  • New signage will indicate areas designated for flyering and publicize the market’s rules.

The press release says people who want to become “market ambassadors” should contact the city. Continue reading “City of Bloomington: Farmers market to reopen at usual time, place this Saturday”

Bloomington farmers market numbers dramatically down, Tuesday announcement on re-opening

Anecdotal reports of attendance being down this year at Bloomington’s farmers market were confirmed with some numbers  on Monday during a Facebook livestream event hosted by the mayor’s office.

Parks and recreation department administrator Paula McDevitt said there’d been 19,000 market visitors this July compared with 40,000 last year.

R Bar Annotated Farmers Market Participations

That’s consistent with the total figures to date reviewed by The Beacon.

The FB live-stream came during the two-week hiatus for the market, declared by Mayor John Hamilton due to public safety concerns.

During Monday’s FB live-stream, Hamilton said he would announce on Tuesday how the market would re-open. By Monday afternoon, the city had not confirmed that the market will be open as usual on Aug. 17. Continue reading “Bloomington farmers market numbers dramatically down, Tuesday announcement on re-opening”

Substitute farmers market behind Bloomingfoods helps fill in for first missing Saturday

The first of two non-market Saturdays is now in the books for the farmers market facility on Morton Street in downtown Bloomington, next to city hall.

Substituting for the usual location yesterday were several alternate spots. Of those, probably the most prominent was the parking lot of the former Kmart location off 3rd street, behind the east-side Bloomingfoods.

That’s where around 50 vendors listed on the welcome table’s roster and booth map were selling fresh produce from 8 a.m. to 1 p.m.

Cropped side by side veg 08.03.2019 crowd IMG_0471 copy smaller
Scenes from the substitute farmers market held on Saturday in the former Kmart parking lot behind Bloomingfoods. Aug. 3, 2019 (Dave Askins/Beacon)

At least a few hundred people were at the market when The Beacon dropped by around 10:30 a.m.

They’ll repeat that scene next Saturday, but return to downtown Bloomington the following week—if the City of Bloomington has been able to implement the safeguards it thinks are necessary to re-open the market.

Last Monday, Bloomington’s mayor, John Hamilton, announced a two-Saturday suspension of the downtown farmers market—citing threats to public safety: “[I]nformation gathered identifying threats of specific individuals with connections to past white nationalist violence, present the potential for future clashes.” Continue reading “Substitute farmers market behind Bloomingfoods helps fill in for first missing Saturday”

Bloomington press conference on farmers market covers First Amendment, gun laws, possible exclusion of a vendor

After announcing on Monday (July 29) that Bloomington’s farmers market would be suspended for the next two Saturdays, Mayor John Hamilton held a press conference on Wednesday morning to address the situation.

Cropped Hamilton and Vendor 07.31.2019 IMG_9907 smaller copy
Left is Bloomington’s mayor, John Hamilton. Right is farmers market vendor for 34 years, Linda Chapman of  Harvest Moon Flower Farm. July 31, 2019 (Dave Askins/Beacon)

Monday’s press release gave the general background for the market closure: “Since the recent public discussion of ties between a vendor at the market and white nationalist causes and groups, the City has identified increasing threats to public safety.”

The press release also hinted at more concrete reasons: “…[I]nformation gathered identifying threats of specific individuals with connections to past white nationalist violence, present the potential for future clashes.”

At Wednesday’s press conference, when Hamilton and the city’s chief of police, Mike Diekhoff, responded to questions from the press on the topic of threats, they didn’t provide additional details on the exact nature of the threats.

Hamilton said, “The threats were enough to identify particular individuals that meant to us, we saw a threat of violence in the market. And given the realities that I talked about, we felt it was critical for public safety to hit pause.”

Hamilton led off the press conference with about 15 minutes worth of prepared remarks, then fielded questions, first mostly from the press, then from others.

Hamilton’s prepared remarks framed the issue of public safety in terms of two challenges: (1) Indiana’s permissive gun laws; and (2) “a toxic stew of bigotry and hatred, of intolerance and divisiveness, that is being brewed by many, all across the country, including our own President.” Continue reading “Bloomington press conference on farmers market covers First Amendment, gun laws, possible exclusion of a vendor”

Bloomington farmers market vendors firm up alternate spots after two-week cancellation of Saturday market

By Wednesday evening, vendors at the Bloomington farmers market were settling on a few different locations to sell their goods, after Mayor John Hamilton announced on Monday that the market would be closed for the next two Saturdays.

Cropped Hamilton 07.30.2019 IMG_9857
In the center of the frame is Bloomington’s mayor, John Hamilton, at the Tuesday farmers market on July 30, 2019.  The Tuesday market on Madison between 6th and 7th streets, which runs from 4 p.m to 7 p.m., will continue during the suspension of the Saturday market. (Dave Askins/Beacon)

As the reason for the temporary closure, Hamilton cited public safety concerns stemming from protests against a vendor believed to be associated with white-supremacist causes.

Vendors had some representation at a morning press conference held by the mayor, but many of the farmers who usually sell at the market were at the time working to find alternate locations.

One location previously reported by The Beacon as a potential site has been nailed down—the parking lot of the east-side Bloomingfoods, across from the old Kmart parking lot. That joins a spot on the northwest side of town at the Urban Air parking lot. [Update Aug. 1 at 2:07 p.m.: The Urban Air location is cancelled.] Continue reading “Bloomington farmers market vendors firm up alternate spots after two-week cancellation of Saturday market”

Vendors finding different Saturday locations after Bloomington suspends farmers market for two weeks over public safety concerns

Less than 24-hours after Bloomington’s mayor, John Hamilton, announced the suspension of the city’s downtown farmers market for the next two Saturdays, market vendors have started coming up with a few possible alternate locations.

Farmers Market Closed Screenshot Screen Shot 2019-07-30 at 9.28.40 AM
A screenshot of the City of Bloomington’s online calendar.

One of them—to the northwest, at Smith Pike off SR-46 in Urban Air’s parking lot—is definite. [Update: Hanna emailed  The Beacon on Thursday afternoon, Aug. 1, to say it looks like most people are heading to Bloomingfoods/Kmart, so it’s cancelled.] Another definite location, on the east side of town at E. Bethel Lane, still has some details to be worked out. Another possible east-side location, in the old Kmart parking lot,  is not yet nailed down.

Updated 07-30-2019 at 6:04 pm: Bloomington Bagel Co. has posted a message on its FB page saying they’re looking for vendors to “adopt” offering free use of their patio space. The FB post directs vendors to contact Bloomington Parks staff for details.

The decision to shutter the market for two Saturdays came after weeks of increasing tension there, and concerns about public safety, when ties between one of the vendors, Schooner Creek Farm, and white-supremacist causes were publicized by community members. Last Saturday, Bloomington police arrested Cara Caddoo, an Indiana University professor of history, for holding a sign protesting the vendor, outside an area in the market that’s designated in the vendor’s handbook as “Information Alley.”

This Saturday and next, from 8 a.m. to 1 p.m., regular farmers market patrons who are accustomed to buying beef from Jeff Hanna’s Triple H Wagyu Cattle Company can find the characteristically highly-marbled meat sold in the parking lot of Urban Air on the northwest side of Bloomington.

It’s off SR-46 West, on the way to Ellettsville at Smith Pike and SR-46. Hanna had to clear a low hurdle to clear to get permission from Urban Air—he’s the owner. Hanna told The Beacon his landlord also thought it was a great idea and saw it as a kind of public service. His wife also supported the idea, Hanna said.

In a telephone interview, Hanna said he is inviting up to around 25 other vendors to join him—it’s just what the space can hold. The $25 apiece he’s asking them to pay will go to cover portable toilets, which he told The Beacon will cost $200. He’ll take people on a first-come-first-served basis. They don’t need to be regular farmers market vendors, he said, but he’s “not going to have a flea market, either.” He said, “It’s got to be produce, meat, flowers, whatever people sell at the market.”

His son’s food truck will be there, Hanna said, and he hopes to have someone with a breakfast-food type food truck, too. He’s reaching out personally to some other vendors who have become friends over the 15 years he’s been selling at the market. Hanna’s contact information is listed on the City of Bloomington’s farmers market vendor directory.

Mike Record, with New Ground Farm, a USDA-certified organic vegetable farm, emailed The Beacon to say they’ll have their wares at Bethel Farm Stop, on E. Bethel Lane, on the east side of town. He’s still working on pulling together the details. [This piece will be updated, as soon as they’re known.]

Cortland Carrington’s American Mushroom & Spice Co. sells mushrooms, honey, and herbs at the Bloomington Farmers Market. Carrington emailed The Beacon to say that an effort was underway to get permission to set up a temporary market at the old east-side Kmart parking lot, behind Bloomingfoods. That possibility was still pending as of Tuesday afternoon.

Jordan Meurer of Meurer’s Produce emailed to say he’ll be at Owen County Farmers Market in Spencer.

Continue reading “Vendors finding different Saturday locations after Bloomington suspends farmers market for two weeks over public safety concerns”