After a moderate period of discussion Monday night, Saline City Council trustees gave unanimous approval to another year’s worth of support for the Saline Farmers Market by pledging just over $23,000 to the weekly event.
City Manager Todd Campbell said he and city staff share concerns expressed by council trustees having to do with the long-term viability and self-sufficiency of the market. He noted it has a history of paying for itself, though still requiring the annual subsidy from the city.
“For 16 seasons, I think there was two that it did not end up in the black, usually by a few dollars,” he said, “and that’s what we would hope as well as we go forward.”
Trustee Dean Girbach asked about what appeared to be discrepancies in the farmers market’s projected financial outlook, as reflected in the paperwork in front of council.
“So, right now we have about $23,000 in expenses, so you’re anticipating about $4,000 in revenue coming in,” he asked City treasurer and Saline Main Street Business Development Team member Mickie Jo Bennett.
“Absolutely,” she replied.
The farmers market's costs declined from last year due to the cancelation of the Tuesday market, though administrators had requested more money to pay workers who had previously donated their time.
Mayor Brian Marl said the farmers market is a bright spot for the city, despite its lack of total self-sufficiency.
“I agree wholeheartedly with Mr. Girbach’s concerns and the trajectory that the farmers market is on currently is not something that can be accepted in perpetuity,” he said. “However, I do believe that the farmers market is an extremely important, viable event for our community. It’s an asset particularly for our downtown, and I’ve made the commitment this year, in the next 12 months, to help them become more financially viable.”
Marl said he would like to see market staff follow a fundraising model that has helped support other popular city events.
“And the main contribution I’d like to make is assisting them with corporate fundraising,” he said referring to the Saline Celtic Festival’s use of such methods. “I don’t claim to be an expert fundraiser, but if you’re dogged and consistent about it, and it people see value in it, they contribute. Last year, and hopefully this year, we will have raised in excess of $10,000 for the Saline Celtic Festival.”
Trustee Linda TerHaar summed up the sentiments of several colleagues, suggesting she looks forward to seeing where the farmers market is, in terms of independent stability, down the road.
“I think it’s very important to give the farmers market staff, as well as ourselves, the time and the leeway to get things moving in a direction that will make all of us more happy,” She said.
Trustee Janet Dillon questioned if the city has concrete steps in place to eventually get the farmers market off its books.
“Do we have a plan in place to put them on the right path at this point, because what I don’t want do is six months, nine months, 12 months down the line realize that we’re in the same predicament we are now,” she asked. “Is there a definitive plan in place and are there benchmarks for that?”
Marl said there is not, but they are in the works.
“Well, there’s not a definitive plan in place subsequent to city council developing consensus on the budget, which was two weeks ago as of today, but what I can tell you, and Mr. Campbell is free to expand on this, I know that he’s had an initial discussion with the executive director of Saline Main Street about expanding the partnership and participation that Main Street could play with the farmers market,” he said. “I know that he’s also had a number of sit-downs with the farmers market staff. I will be reaching out to them about assisting with fund raising, also ideally it would be great to grow the number of vendors.”
Marl requested that a formal report be prepared for council concerning the farmers market’s financial plan for the rest of 2018.
Bennett said a grant has been applied for, which would help a great deal.
“The farmers market has worked with Saline Main Street and has applied for an additional $10,000 grant for some of the processes,” she said. “I’m not sure what the status is of that, but I know they contacted my office to give them some additional information for a grant and Saline Main Street was working with the farmers market to get that grant.”