2013-11-01 / Front Page

Survey aims to work out kinks

By Sean P. Milligan
Contributing Writer

SOUTH PORTLAND – After the South Portland Farmers Market’s third season, a survey has been offered to the people of South Portland and its neighboring communities. The survey looks to gauge the community’s feelings on the market, including its current location.

A previous survey was administered to willing participants at the market over the summer. Ruth Price, an independent research analyst, presented those findings at a Sept. 9 city council meeting. Afterwards she was approached by the council to conduct another survey to reach out to residents who don’t necessarily frequent the market.

“(South Portland City Manager Jim Gailey) asked me to work together with council members Linda Cohen and Patti Smith,” Price said. “He said, ‘Would the three of you be willing to work together to produce a survey and then bring the results back to this council?’”

In Price’s previous survey, the demographics show that patrons of the farmers market were mostly women between the ages of 50 and 60 with an income of $100,000 or more.

“I’m not surprised by those numbers,” Gailey said. “I think that’s the demographic that you see at the farmers market. Whether the farmers market was in a different location, more centralized in the community, whether you’d see different numbers, I don’t know. But I think it’s a fair representation of the eastern side of the community.”

Farmers market manager Caitlin Jor- dan disagrees.

“My only thought on why it came out that way is that the demographic tends to be who’d take the time to fill out a survey,” Jordan said. “A lot of people commented they were surprised there weren’t more young people at the market, but if you stand at the market and you observe who comes and goes you’ll see there are a lot more (young people.)”

In its third year of existence and its second year on Hinckley Drive, the farmers market is held on Thursday afternoons from 3 to 7 p.m., with the street closing down during the hours of operation. In its inaugural season, the farmers market was held at Thomas Knight Park.

In summer 2012, construction took place nearby led to traffic headaches for people on their evening commute. With Hinckley Drive closed, drivers were detoured through a construction zone on Broadway.

“People were frustrated because in order to detour around the famers market you had to detour into a construction zone,” Price said. “I don’t know if there were a lot of complaints, but the city manager got complaints.”

The farmers market was granted another year on Hinckley Drive to better measure how the location functions without construction in the surrounding area. The season only saw one road in the Mill Creek-Knightville area shut down for an abbreviated period of time due to repaving.

Following a relatively smooth summer, the market has no plans to move in the immediate future. With indications from the preliminary results, according to Price, indicating that people are content with the market’s current location.

Those preliminary results also seem to be showing the same demographics as the original survey.

“I was looking at the preliminary results on Survey Monkey and I was quite surprised,” Price said. “Those same demographics, the majority of those women from 50 to 60 years old, were answering. That tells me something. Either 50- to 60-year-old women take the time to fill out this survey, or we really have more of that demographic in South Portland.”

Price added that the incomes for the survey takers were more varied than in the original survey.

As the November city council meeting approaches it will be discussed what changes, if any, would come to the farmers market. Until then, the more people who fill out the survey the better the city can measure the effectiveness and real feelings toward the market and its location.

“I’ve only got 69, 68 responders,” Price said. “The results (from the first survey) were (based on) 174 responders and I’d like to at least hit that.”

The survey is available online at https://www.surveymonkey.com/s/SoPo- Survey. Polling closes Friday, Nov. 1.

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