Thank you to all those supporters who have already contacted the City regarding the Vermillion Area Farmers Market itinerant merchant licensing exemption request.
We had very friendly and positive negotiations with the City Manager, and we do not wish to portray this as a “battle” with the City. It’s not at all. The impasse in negotiations was due to our inability to accept the compromises offered, which we did not feel were in the best interests of the market as a whole.
That said, if you do contact your aldermen or the mayor, please be courteous.
One of the compromises offered to us in the negotiations was an exemption for those vendors selling “items for human consumption.”
As those who have visited other successful farmers markets across the country know, a farmers market is not just about locally grown food–it’s also about the handmade and homegrown items not available elsewhere in the community.
While handmade goods are a small part of our market, they are an important part of what our customers have come to expect at the farmers market. Handmade soaps and home care products, candles, tie-dyes, hand-knit and crocheted items, and other fine crafts are part of what makes the market special.
Too, an exemption that includes only items for human consumption does not take into account plants–and vegetable plants and seeds are approved for EBT/food stamp sales, but a tomato plant (to give one example) is not an item intended for consumption. (Neither is a petunia, but those aren’t approved EBT purchases.)
Another problem with exempting some, but not all of our vendors is that it necessarily defines what our farmers market is, and can be, by drawing a line between those who are exempted from purchasing an itinerant merchant license, and those who are not.
We have already heard from a few of our regular handmade goods vendors who say that they will not be back if they are expected to purchase such a license.
This hurts all vendors at the market–because the more vendors and variety at a market, the higher customer interest is in the market, and the better our vendors’ revenues. Regulars and revenues are what keep vendors coming back to sell in a community.
Dues from all vendors present also help the market pay for advertising, insurance costs, our market manager’s time, and to implement programs such as the EBT/debit payment options.
While we strive to keep our vendor dues as low as possible, a loss of vendors could make it difficult to cover all costs associated with running the market.
Too, a loss of vendors means a loss of revenue for the City–all our vendors remit city and state sales taxes, and while the city may hope to make more money off itinerant merchant licensing, the response thusfar from affected vendors is that they will leave our market rather than pay the licensing fee.
That doesn’t help anyone.
The Vermillion Area Farmers Market has been a regular fixture in this community for many years. We are a non-profit corporation whose mission is to:
“…[promote] locally grown produce, grain, dairy and other food items and local artisan crafts by providing opportunities for local producers and local craftspeople to sell to local consumers; the education of the public about agricultural products and concerns; and to educate the public on the benefits of locally grown and organic foods” [VAFM Articles of Incorporation].
Because our mission includes both local producers and local craftspeople, we feel we must support all the vendors of the market in requesting a blanket exemption from the itinerant merchant licensing requirements.