Shelton Farmers Market getting new leadership

The Shelton Farmers Market is going through some changes during the off-season.

Founding market master Guy Beardsley, a local farmer, has decided to step away from managing the twice-weekly market after 22 years.

Stacia Monahan, another local farmer, is expected to become the new overseer of the market. Monahan and her husband, Fred, own and operate Stone Gardens Farm in the city’s White Hills section.

She has worked with others to form the Shelton Farmers Market Association (SFMA), which is the new legal nonprofit entity that should now run the market. Her formal title will be market administrator.

The biggest change is that the Shelton Farmers Market will become a producer-only market, which means vendors may sell only produce or similar goods that they grow or make themselves.

“You sell what you grow,” Monahan said. “The association’s job is to assure you’re buying directly from the farmers.”

Formal agreement being finalized

Mayor Mark Lauretti is expected to sign documents soon to formalize the relationship between the city and the SFMA.

“We’ve been making a few changes [in the documents], and then we’ll be ready to go,” Lauretti said last week.

Lauretti and Monahan have met on a few occasions in recent weeks to go over the paperwork.

“There’s always issues when you change gears,” Lauretti said of the new license agreement being finalized. “You have to work through things.”

The SFMA, which has a board of directors that meets monthly, needs to provide the city with the rules and guidelines for market vendors. “We’re hoping to have that to [the mayor] by next week,” Monahan said.

The SFMA already has about 30 members, including some people from the previous organization that ran the market with Beardsley as well as new farmers, local business owners, and others interested in supporting local agriculture.

Building up association's membership

In the coming months, Monahan said, she hopes to build the SFMA membership roster, which is open to members of the public.

Farmers will have to be members to sell at the market. It is hoped that people in the community will join as well, since this would hold down the stall (table) fees charged to the farmers.

The membership fees and stall fees will generate income for marketing, advertising, insurance coverage, and other expenses.

June opening is the goal

Monahan’s goal is to open the market sometime in June. “There’s a lot to get this up and running, with everything being formed brand-new,” she said.

The SFMA has been working with the state Department of Agriculture on the changes.

She said active recruiting to get more local farmers to participate hasn’t started in earnest yet, although some new farms and local artisans have signed on.

The market is likely to continue the same operating hours on Saturdays and Wednesdays, although the Wednesday hours in particular could be adjusted over time based on feedback. “We’re going to try to tap into more corporate customers,” Monahan said.

The Shelton Farmers Market will be looking for business sponsors and also hopes to work closely with nonprofit organizations such as the Valley United Way.

It should get a SNAP/EBT machine so people receiving government food subsidies can purchase healthy foodstuffs at the market.

Building is a plus

Monahan said the market will continue to benefit from being able to use a high-profile building such as the Shelton Farm and Public Market Building, at Canal and Cornell streets in the downtown.

It may be the only municipal-owned structure built and used specifically for a farmers market in the state.

The building offers plenty of parking, has access to main roads, and is adjacent to the Riverwalk and Veterans Memorial Park.

It is owned and maintained by the city, which Monahan said is “a real bonus” for a group such as the SFMA. The city charges a nominal fee of $1 a year for the organization running the farmers market to use the building.

Appreciation for Guy Beardsley's role

Beardsley, who comes from a family of farmers and now operates Guy’s Eco-Farm in the White Hills, started the market more than two decades ago.

He devoted hundreds of hours annually to keep the market up and running. As with many such markets in the state, farmers were allowed to sell produce that wasn’t their own, but it was supposed to be grown in Connecticut.

Lauretti said Beardsley deserves appreciation for all his work through the years. “I’m a fan,” he said. “He took the whole thing through the initial concept. He’s been a beacon and a pioneer, and a good public servant. He was, in many ways, the plower in the field for us.”

Lauretti said Beardsley not only showed commitment and determination with his role at the farmers market, but has been a champion of open space, community gardens and preserving the city’s history.

The mayor said he also appreciates the expertise and enthusiasm of Stacia Monahan. “They do a great job,” he said of Stone Gardens Farm, which includes vegetable fields, livestock, a farm stand, and a CSA (community-supported agriculture) program.

Click below to learn more about the new farmers market association on Facebook (at Shelton CT Farmers Market):