South Portland farmers market may get new day, site

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SOUTH PORTLAND — The weekly outdoor farmers market will be back for a fourth year in May, but discussions at a Monday night council workshop suggested it may have a new day and place.

After a summary of an online market survey created and tabulated by city resident Ruth Price, farmers market association director Caitlin Jordan said she will check with vendors about operating the market on Sundays instead of Thursdays.

Several councilors, meanwhile, suggested moving the market from Hinckley Drive to the nearby City Hall parking lot off Thomas Street.

The market, established in Thomas Knight Park in 2011, has operated on Thursday afternoons on Hinckley Drive for the last two years.

A short workshop will be held in the near future before councilors vote on a market time and location.

Jordan, who is also a Cape Elizabeth town councilor, estimated four or five vendors might support a shift to Sundays. Jordan is also head of the association operating a Sunday farmers market outside Scarborough Town Hall, and said Thursdays were originally chosen for the city market because there were no competing markets operating that day.

Price’s second survey was posted at the city website through October and drew 107 responses, including 83 from market patrons.

In contrast to the survey circulated last summer at the market, which drew 179 responses, 54 percent of the online respondents who use the market said they prefer it to remain on Hinckley Drive between Ocean Street and Cottage Road. Ninety-four percent of market patrons last summer said they wanted the market to stay on Hinckley Drive.

Of the 24 online respondents who do not use the market, 70 percent said they favored a different site.

Price discounted some of the data gleaned from the summer survey at the market, in part because the table where surveys could be filled out had a sign urging customers to help save the market, and in part because she said her husband’s enthusiasm for the market while he collected responses may have colored some respondent’s opinions in the survey.

The online survey mirrored the one from the summer in showing most respondents were middle-aged women. In the online survey, there was an almost even split between respondents reporting incomes of $30,000 to $40,000, and those with incomes exceeding $100,000 – almost 16 percent each. Unlike the summer survey, where most respondents said they visited the market weekly, online respondents said they generally visited twice a month.

Councilors were unanimous in their support of the market, and Councilors Tom Blake and Linda Cohen again suggested it be allowed to use Mill Creek Park.

City Manager Jim Gailey has opposed putting the market in the park because of the potential for damage to park grounds.

David Harry can be reached at 781-3661 ext. 110 or Follow him on Twitter: @DavidHarry8.

Portland City Hall reporter for The Forecaster. Baltimore native, lived in Maine since 1989. A journalist since 2005, covering much of Cumberland and York counties. I joined The Forecaster in 2012.