Reprinted from Cathy Dyson’s blog: News From King George
Volunteers with the King George Farmers Market made one thing clear: they don’t want to become dependent on county funding. But when the Virginia Cooperative Extension Service offered King George County $10,000 of unused money toward the salary of market manager, the volunteers thought it was a pretty good idea.
So, Lisa Biever, market vice president, and DeLaura Padovan, manager, made their pitch to the King George Board of Supervisors. They presented a letter from Virginia Cooperative agent Bethany Eigel, who offered the money as a “kick start” to help the market become financially self-sufficient.
Supervisors accepted, sort of. They agreed to allocate $5,000 toward the market instead of the full amount.
The board gave no reason for the reduction. In an email, Chairman Joe Grzeika said members thought $5,000 was appropriate “since the request submitted had no details and the surplus right now is just an estimate.”
According to the letter from Eigel, the money was in this year’s budget for a new Extension agent. But because there’s a freeze on hiring new agents, the money wasn’t used. Eigel pointed out the deal wasn’t a permanent one.
Biever and Padovan don’t want it to be. The market is “at a crossroads” as it enters its third season, Biever told supervisors.
It started with three vendors in 2009, then won first place last year in an online contest for the best small market in the nation.
When the market reopens, at 8 a.m. April 30 at King George Elementary School, it will have 14 sellers.
According to volunteer reports filed by the farmers, the vendors made $25,000 the first season—and twice as much the next year.
“We feel like we’re right on track to grow with that,” Biever said.
Because of those growing pains, Padovan, who volunteered to manage the market, devotes 25 to 30 hours a week to the job. The “volunteer work” has had an impact on her family income, she said, adding the $5,000 from Virginia Extension will be her reimbursement.
Aside from the financial request, Padovan also made her usual—and enthusiastic—presentation about new features for the upcoming season. She told supervisors she’s joined with market managers in Spotsylvania and Fredericksburg to form a regional coalition called The Farmers Market.co. Each time one market advertises, all three benefit.
The managers also are applying for grant funding. Instead of the King George manager writing a grant as a small market with 14 vendors, the coalition represents 80 to 90 growers who serve 4,500 customers on a given Saturday morning.
This year, customers at all three markets will be able to use their credit cards. The markets also will accept SNAP EBT, formerly known as food stamps.
Padovan told supervisors that more than 2,600 King George households receive food stamps each month, worth more than $350,000.
“We would very much like to have a slice of that money come into the market,” she said.
The market also will have vendors selling prepared foods, such as steamed shrimp and crabs, barbecue and roasted peanuts. Once a month, guest artisans will sell non-food items, such as crafts.
Padovan also detailed information on an upcoming film series and future classes on how to can tomatoes or grow shiitake mushrooms.
Supervisors thanked her for her ongoing efforts.
“You put a face on the farmers market,” Grzeika said, “and your vibrancy comes out throughout your presentation.”
Read more Cathy Dyson at: http://blogs.fredericksburg.com/kinggeorge/