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Update: Council May Pull Plug on Attleboro Farmers Market Over Permitting Snafu

Success of a growing market in Attleboro may be the root cause of complaints.

The which sells local produce and products each week, is in jeopardy of being shut down.

Market Manager Heather Porreca received a call late Monday afternoon informing her of two issues that put the market in jeopardy. The first issue is with the market's permit, which was granted only through the summer months.

Porreca said there is some confusion surrounding the permitting of the market. According to Porreca, it has always been the intent to have the market run from the first Saturday in July until the end of October.

A letter read into record states the intention of the market to run until the end of October, Porreca said. The permit, however, reads until the summer months.

Porreca and the rest of the volunteer Attleboro Farmers Market organizers plan to go before the Committee on Licenses Tuesday night.

"I'm requesting clarification of the permit," Porreca said. "And if they so need us to request one, I'll ask for an extension for the market to be open until October 29."

Fight to the End

Councilor Richard Conti, who helped to launch the market, said he plans to introduce an emergency measure to request that the market be opened from May through the end of October each year that way residents can purchase pumpkins, apples and cornstalks.

"Other councilors, who may or not be politically motivated, think the market should have ended on Labor Day," Conti said. "My personal opinion is the growing season ends on Hallow's Eve when the last frost kills off whatever is left sticking out of the ground."

Conti said he will be an ardent defender to the end for the right for the Attleboro Farmers Market to stay in downtown Attleboro. "I will fight like you have never seen."

Attleboro City Council President Frank Cook said there is nothing pending before the Council Tuesday night that would take away the permit granted to the Attleboro Farmers Market because of the dispute over parking between the Market and the Library. 

"There was a meeting last week with the issue of the parking lot and the use of it by the library and farmer's market was all worked out and both parties came to accord," Cook said.

Cook, however, did say that if the Attleboro Farmer's Market decides to continue into the fall they will have to ask for an extension of the permit granted back in June, which will possibly require a vote. That request would come to the the Council from the Mayor's office, especially if it is an emergency measure.

Parking Woes

The second issue is with complaints from members of Board of Trustees who, according to Porreca, were concerned about parking for Library patrons.

Porreca said she addressed the library's concern over handicap and non-handicap parking when she met with the City's Budget and Administration Director, Barry Lacasse.

"I made arrangements with Mr. Lacasse to reduce the size of the market from the previous week by opening up handicapped spots and other spaces closest to the library," she said. "We executed the plan that we had, which freed up six handicapped spots, and five non-handicapped spots."

After making the adjustment, the market used 40 of approximate 80 spots in the municipal lot she said.

"We only take up half of the lot and we were permitted for the entire municipal lot," she added.

"My previous understanding of the market plan was that they would consolidate to the spaces on the south end of the lot to the
left of the entrance meter and away from the library door after September 3rd." Library Directorr Walter Stitt said. 

Stitt said he explained the situation to library trustees at their regular meeting last Wednesday night. One member then pulled the permit and learned that "the language of the Council permit vote seems to give permission for market use only through the summer months, not
through October," Stitt said.

"The library has programs scheduled every Saturday through October 15, including the major annual Friends of APL booksale on the first," Stitt said. "We feel it is not in the interest of library users to impede their access to the building.

"Personally I hope a place can be found for the Market, which has gained great success this year, which does not interfere with use of the publically funded facilities at the library," he added.

Filling a Need

Porreca said she'd hate to see the market be shut down because of a misunderstanding on the permitting.

"We clearly fill a need in the city," Porreca said. "It is a community event attended by approximately 1,500 people every Saturday. There is nothing in the city that draws that many people on a weekly basis."

On average there is roughly $12,000 in commerce in a six-hour period that takes place every week at the market, according to organizers. And the market was recently voted number one in the state by Farmland Inc. and number 16 in the nation.

Not having the market to spread the word, give out samples and sell their products will be a huge disappointment according to vendor Lynn Porto, who runs Be Sweet Bakery with her business partner Kristen Kerney. 

"The market has been a huge stepping stone for us in the community," Porto said. "The people who come are so grateful for this market and the community development is huge."

"The way the economy is you can't just go and open a business you have to have your supporters and following and this is the way to do without having the overhead of a building, rent and everything associated with owning your own business," she added.

Hope for an Extension

If the market is shut down because of a misunderstanding with the date or because of backlash from the library, the community will suffer, according to Porreca.

"We supply recipients and seniors food stamp recipients with special farmers market coupons that they can use on fresh fruits and vegetables," she said. "There are parents on WIC who are trying organics for the first time because that is an option to them. They get those coupons once a month and they expire October 29  and to take away that opportunity way–that is just wrong."

"I hope that the City Council would give us the extension that the City and their constituents deserve."

Kathy September 20, 2011 at 01:18 PM
Both the Farmers' Market and the APL are important to the community. It seems to me that a compromise should be able to be worked out. If the annual book sale at the library requires the entire parking lot, perhaps the Farmers' Market could be moved to Sunday the 2nd for that week. That way each can have the entire lot and not be bumping into each other, Or have an evening market one night that week for a changeup experience. Offer nice, hot cider. A permit extension, if required, should definitely be granted, The market is obviously good for the city.
mark September 20, 2011 at 01:49 PM
I've normally seen the library parking lot largely unused. I'd like to see both sides have open and friendly dialog, and submit to a little give/take as needed. Please let them continue to run, but please yield to the book sale too. Perhaps next year, a different location could be considered. Maybe one of the apparent vacant industrial lots in town.
Maria September 20, 2011 at 02:39 PM
Why not move the Farmers' Market to Finberg Field?!! That way there would be plenty of parking and space for produce. And maybe the city could combine it with a Fall Arts and Crafts Festival as well:-)
Heather Porreca September 20, 2011 at 02:52 PM
Kathy and Marc, those are very thoughtful and wonderful comments. The Farmers Market met with the Library and the City last week and actually came to an accord on how to manage the remainder of the Market Season. Since that meeting and last Saturdays Market, members of the Library Trustees have choosen to attack the language of the permit issued by municipal council in an attempt to close the market. While changing the date of the Market would seem like a resonable solution, we must keep in mind that many of the farmers participate in many other markets through out the week. For many this is how they make their living and are dependent on selling their goods at many market all week long. In regard to the Annual Book Sale at the Library, which takes place on Friday September 30 and Saturday October 1, the Farmers Market organizers have offered to promote the event, set up a tent at the Market and staff the book sale with Volunteers in a gesture of goodwill and cooperation with APL. In addition, Attleboro Farmers Market is comprised of an army of dedicated volunteers that have sacraficed the entire summer of Saturdays and countless evening hours to organize the existance of the Market. There is not one paid member of the committee and to ask any of them to reschedule there time that is given so graciously would be unfair. Thank you for your thoughtful comments and for supporting both AFM and APl and the great City of Attleboro.
Rosh Chodesh September 20, 2011 at 03:38 PM
Heather - love how you pick and choose who can be in your farmers market. Having it not open to all farmers is such a fabulous idea. Along with impeding the handicapped access, the students who depend on the library, and your air of entitlement, I'd can't wait to not support you.
Gretchen Robinson September 20, 2011 at 04:07 PM
One thing that would help is for people to park in the lower Balfour Lot on the other side of the river and walk in. Going over the river and through the park is a great little walk, esp. with kids who love to go over the bridge. We already park there when going to the library. If people are encouraged to park there, they would. People with limited mobility could park where they want. Win/win solution.
Robert Machado September 20, 2011 at 06:46 PM
@ Rosh...you'd get much more mileage from your post if you explain rather than attack. Were you denied a slot at the market...was someone you know denied a slot? Space is tight on that lot and it seems to me there must be a more suitable location. LIke the parking lot at Willet School for instance. It's a Saturday so no school in session and there is plenty of room for all. Just saying.
Heather Porreca September 20, 2011 at 10:01 PM
Come to City Hall tonight and support the Farmers Market. The Council will introduce a motion to vote to extend the Market to October 29th.
Eddie Porreca September 29, 2011 at 05:41 PM
Alice (Rosh), What have we done to upset you so. We have always been open to ALL farmers. Please come to the Market and let us know what we can do better. Surely someone with your artistic creativity could add alot to what we are trying to accomplish.

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