Report From the 6th Annual Farmers Market Convention

We thank our Stonington Farmers Market Secretary Courtenay Haight for attending this convention and reporting back to us.

Report to the Stonington Farmers Market

The undersigned attended the 6th annual Farmers market Convention on Jan 26th
I came away from the discussions with the following thoughts:

Food safety and appropriate licensing are becoming critical, as
legal liability issues become more important. It becomes more important for markets to protect themselves from this by having appropriate insurance, as well as market by-laws and regulations in place for all vendors to adhere to.

These liability issues, in part an outgrowth of the food safety and licensing concerns, seem to point toward markets becoming incorporated, so as to separate the market’s liability from that of individual vendors at the market.

Our market in Stonington has operated for nearly 20 years without a formal structure, without by-laws and rules and this has made for a highly successful market. However, given the size of the market and the number of vendors, perhaps it is time to consider whether we can continue to operate without some formal by-laws and market rules, which would require, at the minimum that vendors provide proof of insurance and copies of necessary licenses with their applications for membership in the market.

Among all the representatives of markets throughout the state, I did not hear of one that did not require at least that minimum amount of documentation. Of course, this means a more formal market management. This comes with the requirements for incorporation either in the form of an L.L.C. (limited liability corp.), a farmers cooperative, or a non-profit corporation (501-C6 under the IRS tax code). A corporate form would require a formal board of directors, regular meetings, permanent records of the board meetings, etc. This may not imply a different “tone” in the market overall, and I don’t think it should, but there will be some among us who would prefer to operate under the old informal structure as we have done successfully in the past. At any rate, perhaps it’s time for such a discussion.

I was able to pick up several sample examples of market by-laws and regulations at the conference for use as guidance.

Although I did not attend the session about the EBT and SNAP program for Farmers Markets, I heard from some other participants that there was some concern in some markets about the up-front costs and the ongoing administrative burdens of markets running a SNAP program. On the other hand, those markets who had taken the leap of faith in the SNAP generally supported the program, and in those markets where the customer base were largely recipients of food stamps the SNAP program was quite successful for those markets. In other markets, the added SNAP sales barely covered the costs of running the operation.

Respectfully Submitted

Court Haight, Secy

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