Changes in future for Farmer’s Market

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By The Staff

There’s nothing like having access to fresh vegetables. For several years, the Farmers Market on S.C. 9 has provided an opportunity to buy vegetables and fruits in season on Tuesdays, Thursdays and Saturdays.

Recently, Lancaster County Council made some changes to the Farmers Market Commission. Council removed four members of the seven-member board and added three new ones.

Several council members had received complaints from buyers and sellers about the market. Council members would not reveal the specific complaints, but said the overall issues were with operations and vendor favoritism.

Council removed Don Gowan, Stacey Gowan, Nancy Adams and George Roberts. Council immediately appointed Robert Steele so there would be enough for a quorum at meetings. Then B.J. Ratcliffe, Diane Estridge and Arthur “Cricket” Harper were added to the commission.

While we do not know the specific complaints, we see where there could have been some potential problems with the former board. The Gowans are father and son and Adams is employed by Gowan.

A seven-member board with three members from the same business could send up a red flag.

Even if nothing was wrong and there were no complaints, it is easy to see where there could be a perception of partiality.

We all have learning experiences in life. We can chalk this incident up as one also.

There was some discussion about requiring appointees to live in the district they represent. What we’ve found out is it is sometimes difficult to get people to serve on various boards and commissions. Steve Willis, county administrator, said if that stipulation was required for the Farmer’s Market Commission, it would be required for all commissions.

While an agriculture background is not required, some of the appointees do have that.

“Over the years, the folks on the Farmers Market Commission were growers, farmers, people who dug in the dirt and raised vegetables and came here to the market to sell them,” Council Chairman Rudy Carter said.

Most of the new members have agricultural experience, whether it is maintaining their own gardens or growing, farming or harvesting fruits and vegetables, Carter added.

The commission is looking for ways to improve and update the farmer’s market. Some suggestions are adding handicapped parking, welcome banners, benches in the aisles and air conditioning for the market’s back room. Round-table discussions are planned in the next few weeks.

Council member Larry Honeycutt thinks the recent changes already have made an impact. Attendance numbers for the first week of August were 100 people on Tuesday, 148 on Thursday and 375 on Saturday. On Aug. 14, 565 people visited the market.

“We’ve got a good group of folks on the commission now,” Honeycutt said.

Council members say the commission members have the knowledge to oversee the operation and maintenance of the farmer’s market and lead the effort to improve it.

We hope so and wish them much success. We look forward to the improvements. We look forward to the crowds. We look forward to the abundance of fresh fruits and vegetables.