Many of us urban dwellers frequent the 2nd Street Market and wonder why there isn’t more variety and why some of the produce isn’t seasonal. The reason is that the Market has a tradition of non-compete. This means that the vendors are assured that no other vendor will carry the same type of product. In other words, if Mrs. Quinn sells commercial hand soap in a pump and Maggie wants to sell handcrafted, lavender antibacterial hand soap in a pump, she can’t because Mrs. Quinn has been guaranteed that no one else will sell pump hand soap. This practice of non-compete did not serve the Webster Street Investment Group well: they were never able to turn a profit on the 2nd Street Market and were forced to walk away from their investment. Thankfully, Five Rivers Metro Parks realized the value of the 2nd Street Market and took over ownership/management. We are told that Five Rivers Metro Parks is in the process of refocusing the Market.
One issue that has been brought to our attention and needs to be addressed sooner rather than later is produce resale. Many of our neighbors have purchased produce from an area inside thinking they were getting a great bargain. But, there is in fact, no bargain to be had. What they purchased was actually grocery produce (frequently imported from overseas) resold under the guise of local, farm fresh food. We feel that when store-bought produce is resold at a farmers market it should be as a convenience and clearly labeled as such! Since a farmers market, at its core, is supposed to support local farmers, perhaps the Market should only allow resale produce that is either out of season or can’t be grown regionally, such as tropical and citrus fruits. Otherwise, isn’t the Market working against the very farmers it is fundamentally supposed to be supporting? Well yes, many Farmers tell us they are in fact hurt by the produce resale issue and report that because of the issue some area farms will not consider selling at the 2nd Street Market. These two issues, produce resale and non-compete assurance; have clearly stunted the growth of the 2nd Street Market leaving us with stale menus and too few choices.
The 2nd Street Market truly has the potential to become a huge regional destination. After all, many Ohioans are learning about corporate agriculture by reading books like The Omnivores Dilemma and watching movies like Fresh, Food, Inc., and Fast Food Nation. Horrified by Agribusiness (uh, the folks behind that very resale produce by the way), people are seeking out an alternative in family farms and flocking to local markets. Imagine both sides of 2nd Street lined with local growers, seasonal offerings, and inside environmentally sensitive products and creative food that surprises us and keeps us coming back for more.
One last bit of food for thought: remember Mrs. Quinn and Maggie and their soap? Keep in mind Mrs. Quinn is selling commercial soap, the same kind you can get at any megamart, meanwhile, Maggie can’t sell her soap that’s handmade with locally sourced herbs and beeswax. Don’t you wish you could try Mary’s local product? Here’s the thing, this scenario is actually playing out right now all over the market. This very soap issue is one example. Maybe you have tried to purchase lamb lately, the one vendor aloud to sell it has been out for weeks meanwhile another farmer at the market has plenty but is not permitted to bring it to market. And what about the Bees… one of the family farmers at the Market tells us that he has been raising bees and would really like to share their honey with us. Well, he can’t bring his honey to the market because the resale produce vendor offers honey which, is sadly merchandised to make us think it is local.
Share your experiences and comments here, maybe they will help Five River Metro Parks focus on what residents want to see happen at our public market!