Farmers’ Market Future Considered by Board

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Thursday April 12, 2012

For the last month, the South Burlington School Board has heard about an initial proposal to bring the city’s Farmers’ Market from Healthy Living, down Dorset Street, to the parking lot shared by the middle and high schools.

The South Burlington Farmers’ Market occurs every other Sunday in the Healthy Living parking lot on Dorset Street. During talks with the School District, a plan emerged to move the event from the business to the South Burlington High School and FH Tuttle Middle School parking lot. The schedule would also change, if the Market is moved, bumping it up to a weekly offering, running from mid-June through mid-October.

Healthy Living created the Market in 2009, noting it would bring locally-grown produce to the community, advancing good nutrition. Representatives from Healthy Living said the Market’s burgeoning popularity led to it out growing its current space.

The proposal linked together three elements: community, curriculum and cafeteria, which are promoted and used by the School District. The idea received more in-depth scrutiny during the April 4 School Board meeting, with directors questioning the financial solvency of the project.

School Board member Elizabeth Fitzgerald told Superintendent David Young about her concerns regarding hiring, paying for and monitoring a manager for the Market, if it sets up shop in the parking lot. Fellow Board member Julie Beatty also expressed concerns about the plan. “At first blush, it sounded like a good use,” said Beatty. “Now, we’re looking at all of the positives and the negatives. We want to do this in a smart, financial way that benefits the district.”

Young listened to Board members’ concerns, noting he believes the plan would benefit both students and the wider community. “We want this to be positive. We want all avenues to align, and we’ve gotten a lot of positive service from Healthy Living,” Young said.

A document handed out to the Board outlined that a new ‘Market Manager’ would be hired for this upcoming season and would be mentored by Trisha Hlastawa, who worked as a manager in the past. According to Young, Hlastawa would also assist in hiring a new person to come on board.  Additionally, a South Burlington Peddlers License must be applied for in the District’s name, with income and expenses associated with the event becoming the District’s responsibility.

The following year, the new Market Manager would be responsible for operations, with Hlastawa lending support when needed.

No final decision was made one way or the other regarding moving the Farmers’ Market, but Young said he planned on “sharpening a pencil” to make sure the District’s finances were safeguarded.
When contacted last Friday about the proposal, a spokesman for Healthy Living expressed concern that the plan was openly discussed. He declined to comment on the matter, preferring to wait until all of the details were in place.

SOURCE: Gail Callahan, Correspondent