Caldwell County Commissioners Court tips hand on Farmers Market guidelines
The move to the Caldwell County Justice Center has not been fruitful for the Lockhart Farmers Market. They made the move on December 5th to accommodate the Dickens Parade. But decreased foot traffic and sales have left vendors in the market hoping to move back to the more lucrative downtown square.
Moving back, however, is currently not an option. After a nearly one-hour closed-door Executive Session on December 15th, the Lockhart City Council passed a motion to suspend all farmers markets from the square until all parties could meet to formulate regulations.
The issue was set to be discussed at the Caldwell County Commissioner’s Court on December 29th. But Judge Hoppy Haden and Commissioner Joe Roland were both absent.
An emailed titled, “recap market discussion” from Lockhart Mayor Lew White to Judge Haden and copying all Lockhart City Council members was, however, included in the meeting packet.
Commissioner B.J. Westmoreland said the list came from a discussion between himself, Mayor White, Council Member Jeffry Michelson, and Council Member Kara McGregor, but the list had not been presented to the full council yet.
“Because Judge Haden has had more conversations regarding the Farmers Market, and because Commissioner Roland is absent as well, and it involved the continued use, and/or potential continued use of county property, I think it would be in the best interest of the county to table this at this time until we have a full court for discussion,” Westmoreland said.
The item was unanimously tabled until the next meeting, scheduled for January 12, 2021.
The email, which is available on the Caldwell County website, listed eight guidelines. It suggested the Farmers Market would need to have their non-profit status before being permitted on the square, be a certified farmers market, only be allowed on the East, West, and South side of the Courthouse on the inner lanes, spacing the tents to meet COVID restrictions, two bathrooms, one of which must be ADA compliant, vendors parking off the square, and limiting hours from 8 a.m. to noon on Saturdays. The last item said the space at the Justice Center would still be available.
“The guidelines are strict but as fair as possible for both sides,” Mayor White wrote in the email dated December 18th. “A public meeting will be held after this is approved for discussion.”
No discussion was made at Tuesday’s meeting, but public comments had already been written into the record at the start of the meeting.
Sarah Heard co-owner of Commerce Café, a lifelong Lockhart resident, spoke of the benefits she’s seen with the Farmer’s Market.
“I’ve never seen the square as lively and as beautiful as when the Farmers Market is there,” Heard said. “It is so good for this community as a whole. It may not be great for everybody personally. But to have that market on the square and to have that liveliness on this beautiful square is great for the city as a whole.”
Heard said she had so much increased business with the Farmers Market, she had to hire two additional staff. With the market gone, she said her business went from $1,000 in lunch sales on Saturdays to $100 in the weeks since the market is gone.
Heard said she will have to layoff the new staff, as the loss in foot traffic no longer supports the need.
Gregory Mata, a vendor from the market, said many of his fellow market vendors are creatives simply trying to eke out a living during the pandemic.
“We ask for only one or two days during the week to make what little living we can while local businesses have seven,” Mata said.
He said most of the guidelines presented in the email were workable but did not like the idea of only operating from 8 a.m. to noon, “which is not a very profitable time.”
He suggested 9:30 a.m. to 2 p.m. instead.
Mata also read part of a statement from Jenniffer Bauman, the President of Farmers Market, who apologized for a conflict not allowing her to be present for the meeting.
The statement, which was not read in its entirety due to time limit, reflected a similar stance regarding the start and end times for the market. She also wanted to see the hours be 9:30 a.m. to 2 pm.
The Lockhart City Council has discussion about the Farmers Market on their tentative agenda for Tuesday January 5, 2021.