Friday, November 9, 2007


Shake-up at Pearl Alley farmers' market
Friday, November 9, 2007 5:38 AM
By Monique Curet

Capital Crossroads will replace the Pearl Alley Growers' Association with its own farmers.
The group that pioneered the annual Pearl Alley farmers' market Downtown won't be part of it next year.

A long-simmering dispute over the location of produce and merchandise booths came to a head last week when Capital Crossroads Special Improvement District said it will replace the Pearl Alley Growers' Association with its own group of farmers.

Capital Crossroads, which represents High Street business owners, holds the permit for the summertime market.

Those who are part of the growers' group are welcome to join the new one, Capital Crossroads director Cleve Ricksecker said in a letter to the farmers.

Ricksecker introduced another element to the dispute in a separate letter to the farmers' market managers: too few vendors. The main reason for ending the relationship with the Pearl Alley growers group was its "inability … to attract and retain farmers in the market," he wrote to Marcy Musson, who manages the group with her husband.

"As farmers' markets flourish in central Ohio, the Pearl Alley Farmers' Market gets smaller each year. The presence and health of a farmers' market in downtown is too important to allow this trend to continue."

The heart of the dispute is vendor location. Traditionally, the farmers occupied the mouth of Pearl Alley near Broad Street and allowed general-merchandise vendors in that area at their discretion.

Capital Crossroads wanted to close the gaps between vendors on days when few farmers set up shop, to appear fuller and attract customers. The farmers were concerned about maintaining their identity.

"We wouldn't have done this if we weren't hearing from most of the farmers out there who are very unhappy with the way the market is being run," Ricksecker said in an interview.

Musson declined to comment.

Ricksecker told Pearl Alley growers that fees for participation would be reduced, although he didn't know how much. Farmers pay $350 to have a booth for the whole season, or they can pay by the day, $25 each day.

"I'm just hoping that the market continues in whatever capacity," said Mike Anderson, owner of Sundog Specialty Crops and a member of the Pearl Alley Growers' Association. He raises certified-organic fruits, vegetables and flowers at his Sunbury farm.

Anderson said he'd be willing to work with Capital Crossroads to keep selling at the market.

"It's important to our farm to have those marketing outlets."

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