2014-01-17 / Front Page

Market makes progress with second survey

By Sean P. Milligan
Contributing Writer

SOUTH PORTLAND – The South Portland Farmers Market moved toward stability at a city council workshop Monday, Jan. 13.

The market is going into its fourth season, the second at its current location on Hinckley Drive along Mill Creek Park.

City councilors suggested the market could be moved to the city hall parking lot or off the street and onto the grass at Mill Creek Park. It was also proposed moving the summer market to Sunday.

The location on Hinckley Drive has been controversial. Open weekly from 3 to 7 p.m. on Thursdays, the road is closed to allow vendors space to set up and establish booths.

Occurring during peak commuting hours, the move has caused traffic headaches for many who live in the eastern side of the city and who use Hinckley Drive to bypass the traffic on Broadway. In 2012, many streets in that part of town were under construction, which only intensified the problem.

Ruth Price, an independent research analyst, conducted a follow up survey to a Sept. 9 presentation to the council. The questions were comparable to the original survey, but the follow up was administered anonymously online rather than in person at the farmers market. The results, while similar to the original, were more enlightening.

According to the survey, 47 percent wanted to keep the market at its current location, compared to 40 percent who wanted it to move somewhere else in the city. Respondents were encouraged to leave comments about where they would suggest moving the market.

“The market patrons were very much in favor of the Hinckley Drive location,” Price said. “However, I want to point out that they were not as vehemently supportive of the location as with the (survey that was presented on) Sept. 9’s responders.”

One anonymous response to the survey read, “I cannot believe we shut down a street in the middle of the day to accommodate such a small amount of vendors. It is not fair to inconvenience so many for so few and I actually won't patronize the market again because of this.”

Local famers who sell their goods at the market, such as Jodie Jordan of Alewives Brook Farm in Cape Elizabeth, are concerned with plans for the upcoming season. With other farmers markets like the one in Scarborough occurring on Sunday, Jordan is worried about the vendor fallout of moving to a different day.

“It’s just whether our vendors can move to Sunday, that’s all,” he said. “Are there vendors out there who can come on Sunday, even? I don’t know. We can, yes, but whether it’ll be better than a Thursday, I don’t know that.”

Jordan’s daughter Caitlin, a town councilor in Cape Elizabeth, also serves as a vendor at the market and is the farmers market manager. As workshops in the past have gotten contentious, the younger Jordan was pleased with reactions and suggestions from city councilors.

“There were different people here,” said City Councilor Patti Smith who, along with Councilor Linda Cohen, has assisted the farmers market in its research. “The council (in the past) had a different make up of different councilors with different opinions. That’s what happens. Councilors change from election season to election season, and I think we have people looking at the farmers market in a brand new scope.”

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