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Town of Berlin now leads local farmers market

BERLIN – The Berlin Farmers Market has cut its connection with the Berlin Chamber of Commerce and is now under the guidance of the Main Street Berlin program.

The move comes as discussion continues about a long-term strategy for the market and how it might relocate elsewhere in the town’s center.

"We … are looking forward now to a new partnership with the Main Street Berlin program, while maintaining the character and high quality of our downtown Berlin Farmers Market," said Paul Wood, owner of A & W Farms and a member of the local farmers market in a press release sent Monday, Nov. 5.

Main Street Berlin, managed by Berlin Economic & Community Development Director Michael Day, is in the middle of setting up an official advisory board for the market. This board will feature Day, Berlin Councilmember Lisa Hall, two market vendors, two representatives of the Berlin business community, two Berlin community members and a “market master” to act as the vendors’ leader.

The most immediate action Main Street Berlin will take is the appointment of a market master, a position that has been vacant for many months.

Olive Mawyer, former executive director of the Berlin Chamber of Commerce, had held the title, but no one has assumed the position since Aaren Collins took Mawyer’s chamber position in May.

Another town event has also been created: “Agriculture Heritage Weekend,” which will be coordinated by the farmers market and Main Street Berlin.

Additionally, there will likely be an annual presentation of the Berlin Farmers Market at a mayor and council meeting.

With the changing to new leadership, the Berlin Farmers Market will also undergo an update of its rules and regulations.

As the development of a long-term strategy for the market, Day could not give an estimate as to when any newly discussed items will be officially confirmed.

However, Day was able to confirm the Berlin Farmers Market will stay in the North Main Street lot until at least next season and new locations close to the town’s center will be discussed.

"I believe everyone at the meeting found that we have much to gain by working together and much to lose if we do not," Berlin Mayor Gee Williams said in the press release.

Williams is referencing the mayor and council meeting on Oct. 22, when the removal of the farmers market from its traditional downtown parking lot off North Main Street was discussed.

Berlin officials cited a need for additional parking because consumers have been complaining to the town about a lack of parking availability, especially since a great influx of new businesses have brought much traffic to the downtown area.

As the farmers market can take up as many as 25 parking spaces on the town-owned lot, Berlin officials decided the best option was to move the market from the location it has occupied for the past 19 years.

The town offered Stephen Decatur Park and Dr. William Henry Park as new market locations, and asked the chamber to make the required formal request of moving the market.

Supporters of the Berlin Farmers Market filled the council chamber in protest of the relocation and to lambaste.

Many lambasted the chamber and town for not giving farmers any notice, while others argued that moving the market’s presence away from downtown would kill business.

Because of the strong protest – not one public comment was in favor of the move – the mayor and council decided to table the motion to move.

The day after the meeting, Williams sent a press release reminding the public it was originally the town’s request to move the market.

As town and market representatives plan the future of the Berlin Farmers Market, its members have expressed pleasure with the new direction.

"With 20 years of history and loyal customers here, I can say we are very pleased to be staying in downtown Berlin," Wood said.