Nonprofit group pitches proposal to manage and operate Greensboro Farmers Curb Market

by Eric Ginsburg

David Craft presents a proposal to operate the Greensboro Farmers Curb Market to vendors, customers and market supporters. (photo by Alexandria Stewart)

Seeking to turn over management of the farmers’ curb market, the Greensboro City Council solicited proposals and received four responses. At a meeting held on Feb. 23, representatives of the Greensboro Farmers’ Market Inc. plan presented their proposal to a large group of vendors and invited feedback.

Partners David Craft, Charlie Brummitt along with consultant Jean Pudlo, argued that the farmers’ market should be managed by a nonprofit entity, which they would create. The other propos would be for-profit ventures.

They said that while there are a variety of ways the nonprofit could be set up, they are proposing a community-led market rather than a vendor-managed market in order to best serve customers and vendors alike.

The plan includes a board with at least one third of members being vendors. They would also create a vendor advisory board similar to one in place now, and a community board to encourage input. The nonprofit would hire a market manager and two part-time employees.

“This proposal recognizes that without the vendors and customers we don’t have a viable market,” said David Wright of Real Catering. He said he favored a nonprofit because they could receive grants, while other proposals would raise money by increasing table rent on vendors. Garland McCollum of Massey Creek Farms also spoke in favor of a community-led market because of the importance of involving customers and vendors alike.

The council appointed a citizen committee to review proposals and make a recommendation, which is expected to happen in April.

Whoever is selected will take over management of the market beginning July 1 according to the current timeline.

“The city appears to be behind on its process,” Brummitt said, and some audience members laughed, saying they weren’t surprised.

The proposal was welcomed by most people at the meeting, with many signing cards in support of the plan after the meeting. Mike Faucette of Faucette Farms voiced a number of concerns about the process.

“My biggest problem is they didn’t have input from farmers out of Guilford County and that have been there a long time,” Faucette told YES! Weekly after the meeting. “What I’d rather see is it stay more like it is and give more authority to the vendors advisory board.”

Pat Bush of Handance Farm in Reidsville, who helped craft the nonprofit proposal, said if the city rejected all four proposals it would continue to manage the market, as Faucette hopes. Bush considered this unlikely given that city council initiated the process.

“We tried to be as open as we can be,” Brummitt said in response to Faucette’s concerns during the meeting, and said there would be more opportunities to be involved as the process moved forward.

The three other proposals vary in their approach to the market. The Farmer Community

Collaborative proposal places heavy emphasis on farmers, with a full seven-member board of farmers working 10 acres or more. It would aim for 70 percent of vendors to be farmers, which is actually 5 percent less than Greensboro Farmers’ Market Inc. stated in the meeting.

A proposal by GA Sonny Vestal Jr. would invite farmers from surrounding states to participate and increase table rental costs by 25 percent.

Majestic Mountain Maintenance, a commercial landscaping company, would manage the market in the fourth proposal. Owner and Guilford College gradate Andrew Shoffner has a long family history in farming and says the market is under-promoted and underused. His proposal suggests using “gorilla” marketing and social networking sites to help correct this.

According to a memo from Parks & Recreation Director Greg Jackson, the citizen committee to review the four proposals will hold its initial meeting on March 2 at 5 p.m. at the Learning Center on 1001 4 th Street to “provide a framework for evaluating the proposals” and to pass out copies of each to committee members. The meeting is open to the public.