Falmouth panel wants farmers market to feature mostly produce

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FALMOUTH — The Ordinance Committee is close to finalizing new rules that would formally regulate the farmers market, which runs from May to October at American Legion Post 164 on Depot Road.

The goal of the new rules, according to Town Councilor Charlie McBrady, chairman of the Ordinance Committee, is to ensure that the majority of items offered include produce that’s grown locally, to ensure the market is operated in an appropriate location, and to require an annual permit.

“We don’t want a flea market. We want a market dedicated to produce,” McBrady said following a Dec. 8 meeting of the committee. He said the town also wants a farmers market that would specifically exclude the sale of things like marijuana, weapons, fireworks and livestock.

In a memo to the Ordinance Committee, Amanda Stearns, Falmouth’s community development director, said the town attorney prepared new language that “we believe … will provide the flexibility the committee asked for and at the same time (provide) a level of oversight … to assure that (the market) sells products that are appropriate and … managed in such a way to avoid public safety and neighborhood disruption.”

After the meeting, McBrady said the town is pursuing an amendment because “right now there are no rules governing it. We’ve had a market for some time that’s had no municipal controls. It’s very loose, and right now they’re getting a hall pass.”

McBrady said the town wants to have a successful farmers market, so “we want to do this right.” He said that includes an understanding that diversity is necessary, but added that it’s “more important to exclude (what can be sold) than to include” a large variety of items.

In terms of the permit fee, McBrady said Falmouth wants to “be in line” with what other communities charge. “We don’t want to be onerous,” he said, “but want to do what’s fair and equitable.”

He said the proposal still has to be finalized. “But the discussion went well and I think we’re on the same page” with leaders of the Cumberland Farmers Market Association, which operates the farmers market in Falmouth, McBrady said.

Cindy Townsend, co-owner of Cranberry Rock Farm in Winthrop and head of the Cumberland Farmers Market Association, said after the meeting that the proposed rules are “an attempt to create an image of what the farmers market will look like.”

Overall, she said, “We appreciate the effort of the committee and (town) staff. We think things went well (last week) and the ordinance is moving in a positive direction.”

“As a market we enjoy operating in Falmouth and have developed great relationships with many of the people in town,” she added. “We hope to continue to serve these people well into the future.”

The town first began reviewing possible new rules on the farmers market this fall, after Stearns learned those venues are only allowed in two areas of town, and that the definition Falmouth currently has for farmers markets is severely restrictive.

“As (currently) defined by the town’s ordinance, (farmers markets) are open-air markets that provide local farmers the chance to sell goods either grown on their farms or made from goods grown on their farms,” she said at a previous Ordinance Committee meeting.

Kate Irish Collins can be reached at 710-2336 or kcollins@theforecaster.net. Follow Kate on Twitter: @KIrishCollins.

The Falmouth Ordinance Committee is close to finalizing new rules that among other things would regulate what can be sold at the local farmers market.