Derry Town Administrator John Anderson said he didn’t understand why the Town Council was “going after” the Derry Farmers Market.
Councilors voted, 4-3, last week to slash funding for the market by 77 percent, from $21,800 to $5,000.
Anderson was the voice of doom in the debate. The budget cut would mean the end of the market, he said.
The market will continue this summer, once a week for four months, just as it has the past three years.
But that will be it, the town administrator warned, the market can’t continue on such a small budget.
Many residents expressed surprise that market manager Beverly Ferrante had $20,800 at her disposal, plus an additional $1,000 for a “concession attendant.”
Ask Jane Lang, the volunteer manager of Salem’s Farmers Market, which operates on exactly $5,000 a year, all generated from vendors’ fees.
The idea of a farmers market, Lang said, isn’t to make money, it’s to provide residents with fresh produce and give local growers a place to sell.
That’s what Phil Ferdinando of J&F Farms thought, too. He was in at the beginning. But even before the budget cut, Ferdinando had opted out of this year’s market. It has quickly gone downhill in its three years, he said.
There’s plenty of blame to spread around. Location may top the list. When the market moved to the town office parking lot last year, it lost its Broadway visibility. But there’s more. Fresh produce was almost as scarce as customers. Crafts and jewelry dominated.
The vibrant atmosphere of 2010, when customers wound their way around vendors with fresh eggs, raw milk, cut flowers, plants, and lots of locally grown fruits and vegetables was sadly missing last summer.
The atmosphere was, frankly, a little sad. Choices were limited, fresh choices even more so.