A successful farmers market is a sign of a happy, healthy and vibrant town. My vision for a farmers market in Ketchum is one that represents a welcoming place for local vendors to sell locally grown and locally sourced products at a location with broad community support.
Finding that happy place, where residents feel heard, year-round businesses feel respected and vendors feel supported, has been challenging.
There were four main challenges to maintaining the market in Town Square: fire code and ADA compliance, lack of neighboring business support, parking concerns and the unintended consequences of setting an unwanted precedent.
Fire code and ADA issues that came to light during 2018 require the market to reduce vendors from about 44 to 25, allowing no growth and clearly restricting local producers from participating.
In Town Square, and even in the prior location on Fourth Street, there was little support for the market from surrounding businesses. It was felt that the market was negatively affecting their businesses in prime summer months, and not respectful of their year-round commitment to be open and pay rent and taxes.
There was mixed community support for the downtown location; some were very positive, some “avoided town on Tuesdays.” Parking was often cited as the issue and was a concern to many.
Finally, the city must treat everyone equally—for obvious reasons. By permitting the farmers market to sell merchandise in Town Square, we would have to permit other vendor markets. We have had a number of inquiries about hosting other commercial activities in Town Square selling arts, crafts, etc. Last year, we allowed two other multiday commercial activities to use Town Square due to the precedent set by the farmers market. In our opinion, this trend was set to continue.
To address those challenges, and many other issues relating to events in the city, we held a series of stakeholder workshops after the summer season. (The farmers market was represented at all of them.) The purpose of that workshop was to understand the position of all stakeholders regarding events in Ketchum and seek a common ground that respected all views. Workshops are an important and inclusive process that allow us to listen to others and determine a policy that is considerate and balanced.
After hearing many stakeholders’ concerns, we determined it was appropriate that only events whose primary purpose was for free, public entertainment should be permitted to use Town Square during the peak summer months (Fourth of July to Labor Day). We determined that events primarily commercial in nature should not compete with public entertainment during that period. That criterion was well understood and broadly supported.
Given the challenges we faced and the new criterion for Town Square use, we needed to find a location for the farmers market. Ideally, that location should have broad community support, room for growth, shade and parking nearby—without negatively affecting local businesses; be a permanent home to become a destination in its own right; and set the right precedent for other commercial activities on public property.
The farmers market will have to choose a location that works for them. My hope is they choose to move to Forest Service Park and adjacent streets. The area has a lot to offer and I personally love the idea of the farmers market rolling into Ketch’em Alive during the height of the summer.
I hope you continue to support the farmers market, wherever they choose to locate.
Neil Bradshaw is mayor of Ketchum.