MADISON COUNTY, Ala. (WHNT) — The Madison County Farmer’s Market opened June 1 with revised hours. Budget shortfalls brought on the change to a five-day-a-week operation with reduced hours. But local farmers say the new structure is hurting business. Growers expressed their latest concerns to Madison County commissioners Friday.
“The farmers are being pushed in all directions here — we need that market, it’s for the people and it’s a service to the people,” said grower Colleen Brooks who stood up to tell commissioners the newly reduced farmer’s market hours and days of operation are stifling success.
“A lot of people would get out of work, stop at the market and pick up their vegetables before they go home. We’re losing those customers now because the doors are being closed,” explains Brooks.
The market currently closes at 3:00 or 4:00 in the afternoon. Brooks says this not only penalizes customers, but growers’ flexibility in bringing their produce to the market.
“Three o’clock, it’s very hot during that time of the day, when those doors are closed your vegetables better be outta there, they’re not going to be able to leave them there, they are going cook unbelievably over night.”
Brooks also says vendors are having to hustle vendors out the door even if they are not done gathering their produce.
“All isn’t lost,” interjected District 6 Commissioner Bob Harrison who took growers for a sidebar conversation about market issues, ensuring them he and his counterparts are committed to finding a solution.
“We’re going to have to regroup and we need the kind of input that you’re talking about to try to help us get there,” Commissioner Harrison told Brooks.
Although vendors maintain waiting until September — far past the growing season — to come up with a change is simply not good enough, they did not only come with gripes but concessions as well.
“If you need volunteers for two days of the week just like you did last year, one of us would gladly volunteer to stay there on Mondays and Tuesdays,” offered Brooks.
County officials say the Madison County Farmer’s market lost around $60,000 in 2012. Growers pledged to continue to get creative in working with commissioners to restore the market as a seven-day-a-week operation.