City Council donates park fees, but does little else to support Farmers market
By Lorne Chambers | Editor
Folly Beach Farmers Market managers Sarah Poe and Megan Day made a passionate plea to City Council at its March 14 meeting, requesting support from a group that has indicated it wants to see more family-friendly events for Folly Beach and less booze-fuelled events like Folly Gras, which it was still reeling from weeks earlier.
It’s hard to think of an event that is more community-oriented and family-friendly than the local Farmers Market, which begins its fifth season on April 10, its second at the Folly River Park. Yet, council reluctantly approved the market’s request to move from Wednesday to Monday, citing a potential parking conflict with an Alcoholics Anonymous group that meets at 8 p.m. on Mondays at the Community Center down the street, despite the fact that the Farmers Market is over by 8 p.m. and most people have already left the park long before that.
Poe said that the request to move from Wednesday to Monday was to allow for more “farm-related” businesses to participate in the Folly market and not directly have to compete for vendors with the larger West Ashley Farmers Market, which began last fall and is organized and funded by the City of Charleston. The Folly Farmers Market is one of the few in the Charleston area not organized or at least financially-supported by their respective local government.
Council did agree however to again waive the park fee of $200 per week for the 25 weeks of the Famers Market season. This is something it typically does for most community-oriented events, ranging from the Folly Beach Arts & Crafts Guild’s Art in Park to Praise in the Park, a gospel event organized by councilman Pennell Clamp’s son. But Clamp was one of two councilmembers who voted against waiving the fee for the Farmers Market along with councilmember Dale Stuckey, who seemed unwilling to help support the market in any way, voting no on every request Poe and Day brought before them.
While the fee for the park was ultimately waived again this year, council did throw some new roadblocks in the way of the Famers Market, including requiring a fee of $50 per hour for a public safety officer to be present to assist with traffic, parking, and other safety issues that may arise. The officer would be present for a total of six hours, including set up and breakdown an hour before and after the event. This new fee adds minimally $300 weekly, or $7,500 annually to the Famers Market’s expenses.
“The fee of $50 per hour per officer is quite a large undertaking for our small market,” Day pleaded to council. “If you would consider coming down a bit on this fee it would obviously show your support for the hard work we are doing and help alleviate some of this new financial burden.” Her request for lowering the fee to $25 per hour per officer was denied. Day says she has began outreach to help fund the added expense through local businesses, citizens, and grants.
Councilman DJ Rich argued that even though the Farmers Market is a community event, it was still a business. And while he supported waiving the park fees, asking for more than that from the city was too much for him. Poe shared the market’s budget with council and pointed out that there is no money allocated to the market managers or anyone else working behind the scenes.
This year council also denied the temporary street closure of the first block of East Indian Avenue, in front of the post office, making it nearly impossible to have food trucks present. The food trucks were not only a popular attraction, but it was a potential vendor revenue stream for the market, which is now facing a lot more expenses as a result of the city now charging for a public safety officer to be present.
Following council’s denial of the street closure and denial of lowering the officer’s fees, Poe, who has helped run the market for the last several years, was clearly upset upon leaving council chambers.
Local resident Richard Brendel, who originally started the Folly Beach Farmers Market in 2013 when it was still held in the parking lot of what is now The Washout restaurant, used the public comment section of the council meeting to ask the members of council to support the Farmers Market moving forward and challenged the members of council to actually come out and see what it’s all about. “Come out and experience the true power and positive energy of this Farmers Market. What I’m asking you, and what I’m hoping, is that you will come out and experience this.” said Brendel.
“Sitting here in front of you tonight I felt there wasn’t a support, a true support from the city, for this Farmers Market,” he said. “I want to plant the seed that I would really like to see this community, this city, get behind the Farmers Market … Because it will go away if the city doesn’t support it.”