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September axed from Lodi farmers market

Higher costs, fewer attendees cited as reason for reduction

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Posted: Tuesday, February 15, 2011 12:00 am | Updated: 6:02 am, Tue Feb 15, 2011.

Due to high expenses and historically poor attendance in September, the Downtown Lodi Farmers Market is going to be shorter this year. The annual market is being reduced to 13 weeks and will not stretch into September, the Downtown Lodi Business Partnership board of directors unanimously voted Monday.

“It’s unfortunate for the community, but it makes sense when looking at it like a financial and business decision,” said Jaime Watts, executive director of the DLBP.

The market typically runs from June to September, but partnership directors said the nonprofit organization has operated at a loss during the final month for the last five years. Not only are school sessions resuming, but the Grape Festival and Labor Day weekend also reduce the number of customers at the market in September, said Watts. Vendors and farmers typically enjoy fewer sales during the final month, and about a one-third of them don’t participate during that time, she said. Darkness setting in earlier in the day also factors into lower attendance, directors said.

The man who oversees the market’s produce supply said he is disappointed with the decision but understands the reasons behind it.

“I know I’m going to get flack from growers who still have crops at that point (in September),” said Jon Tecklenburg, farmers’ representative for the Downtown Lodi Farmers Market. “But the head count isn’t there and then the non-ag vendors start leaving because they aren’t selling as much.”

He said crops like peppers, pears and table grapes are commodities typically still available in at the market in September. However, the overall supply of produce at the market does traditionally dwindle later in the year, he said.

Starting the market earlier in the day in September to mitigate for earlier nightfall is not an option because the street closures necessary to operate the event would likely interfere with Downtown businesses, Watts said.

“We’re here to support business, not interfere with them,” she said.

The costs of running the market

Due to permitting requirements from the city and county, as well as the cost of insurance and closing down streets, the farmers’ market costs about $2,500 a week to run.

Even though the partnership lost money while continuing to host the market during September in previous years, the directors said reduced revenue plays too big a role in 2011. The partnership is expecting assessments, a significant portion of its budget, to be down this year. Assessments come from individual businesses in the partnership and vary depending on the type of operation and its number of employees. The partnership’s annual operating budget is between $150,000 and $175,000, and $40,000 of it came from assessments in 2010, Watts said.

Assessments could be between $30,000 and $35,000 in 2011, said Nancy Byer-Hauan, DLBP board president.

There are several reasons for the decline. Many storefronts remain vacant around Downtown Lodi and don’t have dues-paying merchants inside. Several Downtown businesses have also cut staff over the last 18 months and pay less in assessments as a result, Watts said. Also, new businesses aren’t required to pay dues for the first year. Those leaving Downtown are exempt as well.

To help make up some of the money, the partnership is working to obtain more sponsorships. The board approved a motion to contract with a commission-based worker who would attempt to secure sponsorships. Since the worker would be paid on commission and wouldn’t earn unless they produced results, it’s a deal that benefits the DLBP, Watts said.

Although a commission-only employee could be working for the partnership in the coming weeks and months, Watts said September markets would still not happen because contracts need to be finalized with this year’s vendors.

While the market will be several weeks shorter this year, Watts said the partnership will consider bringing September sessions back in 2012.

“Nothing is set in stone for next year,” she said.

Directors Michael Warren and Gregg Lewis were absent from Monday’s session.

Contact reporter Jordan Guinn at jordang@lodinews.com.

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7 comments:

  • Hannah Kemalyan posted at 1:22 pm on Thu, Feb 17, 2011.

    Hannah Kemalyan Posts: 12

    We all know the Big Bad Economy is a bummer,and we've all suffered from its dismal state. Its time to take a new stance on things. Solvency is important of course,but with a little creativity, profitability can be manipulated and liability reduced in the interest of preserving one of the more fun community events in Lodi. Its more than just a place to buy delicious fruit and veggies-- its a social thing, and the community needs it in its entirety. It definitely seems that a more holistic approach should be taken to preserve the full market season. Perhaps consider condensing the market (reorganize) to reduce the street closures. Encourage more attendance through good live music and drawings/fundraisers/ contests. Renew/ increase the value of the experience rather than giving up an entire month to save a few bucks.

     
  • Doug Chaney posted at 10:23 am on Wed, Feb 16, 2011.

    Doug Chaney Posts: 1232

    If the farmers' market is an overall profit generator including the so-called September month losses, why should that month be eliminated just to show the bottom line profit larger? Does Ms. Watts earn a share of the percentage of the gains? The market is for the benefit of Lodians, not the bottom line profit of the DLBP, isn't it? If the market has shown past profits with the current schedule, why change it? Doesn't the DLBP have any other ideas or fund raisers to compensate for those minor September losses? Maybe moving the market to the Grape Festival grounds would attract more customers, especially from the eastside. September should be a good month with school beginning and vacation time over for most, so why would there be such a huge dropoff in profits? Remember the old saying, "it's the economy, stupid?"

     
  • Jeff Hood posted at 8:54 am on Wed, Feb 16, 2011.

    Jeff Hood Posts: 26

    They City of Lodi charges the DLBP an annual $38 fee for the entire farmers market season. There is no other City fee.

    Jeff Hood
    Communications Specialist
    City of Lodi

     
  • Darrell Baumbach posted at 1:54 am on Wed, Feb 16, 2011.

    Darrell Baumbach Posts: 9403

    Doug... I have no idea if you are right or not.... but the costs have to come way down... as well as the price for the products sold...I wouldn't doubt that you are right. Maybe the market should be moved from downtown. I wonder if a zero cost land location couldn't be donated or used in someway where a real cost effective, convenient area could be utilized... how would you bring down the cost to operate... I really have little answers... you and Roy might have some positive input ...

     
  • roy bitz posted at 10:25 pm on Tue, Feb 15, 2011.

    roy bitz Posts: 489

    Why? Why start our farmer's market in June, when little local produce is available then end it September when most local produce is peaking or just coming in and ready for harvest.??
    I like going to the market Thursday evenings in late August and September when the heat is subsiding and the best produce is available.
    I understand the DLBP not wanting to foot the bill for the market---only a few of them see their business benefit from it while others may view street vendors as competitors.
    I'm not sure all the reasons given in this article are fact based or valid.
    Maybe the local wine industry can come up with a down town "wine stroll" or something--- to compliment the market in September---just a thought.

     
  • Doug Chaney posted at 6:18 pm on Tue, Feb 15, 2011.

    Doug Chaney Posts: 1232

    The leadership at the DLBP leaves much to be desired. Too many paid personnel and overpaid leader that produces nothing but negatives for downtown Lodi.

     
  • Darrell Baumbach posted at 3:48 pm on Tue, Feb 15, 2011.

    Darrell Baumbach Posts: 9403

    Due to permitting requirements from the city and county, as well as the cost of insurance and closing down streets, the farmers’ market costs about $2,500 a week to run…
    How sad… that the city can not figure a way out to make sure a farmers market can exist and thrive. It is very unfortunate and silly in an agricultural community that this would happen. I work within 200 feet of the Lodi Farmers market yet have not bought anything there in two years. The last three times I went, the prices were just as high as the stores, the quality was not that much better, and the variety was less. That is unforgivable for a farmers market. Ag and non ag products should be less expensive in that market.
    I am currently in Thailand where thousands of farmers markets thrive and are the key outlets for farmers selling produce. Big cities, small cities, towns and villages all do it successfully. The prices are much much lower and everyone goes there for just about everything, including house hold goods and clothing. The only problem with the farmers markets here is that there are too many people who want to buy so it is crowded. Wouldn’t it be nice if Lodi farmers market had too many customers? You would think if a city the size of LA in Thailand, and many small towns and villages could figure it out, that a small town in California, in an agricultural community, could too. Please think outside the box just a little… farmers markets should be an attraction. Currently, Lodi’s farmers market will soon disappear all together, not just September… like I said… sad. Lodi is too nice of a place to let that happen.

     

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