Shelton Farmers Market readies for early June opening with new guidelines

Mayor Mark Lauretti said he has signed the lease agreement with the new nonprofit entity that will operate the Shelton Farmers Market.

The new group, the Shelton Farmers Market Association (SFMA), tentatively plans to open the outdoor market this year on Saturday, June 6. The lease agreement allows the SFMA to use the city-owned Shelton Farmers Market Building downtown.

Lauretti attended the SFMA meeting on April 6 at City Hall to explain some concerns he has about changes being made in the market through the new association’s bylaws and market guidelines.

The nonprofit SFMA will turn the Shelton Farmers Market into a producer-only market, which means vendors may sell only produce or goods they grow or make themselves in Connecticut.

“You have to be growing or making what you are selling,” explained Stacia Monahan, who will oversee the market as the SFMA administrator.

Monahan is well known to many people in Shelton because she and her husband, Fred, own and operate Stone Gardens Farm in the city’s White Hills section.

Had different rules before

Monahan is taking over as overseer of the market from another White Hills farmer, Guy Beardsley of Guy’s Eco-Garden. Beardsley was the driving force behind the market’s founding in the early 1990s.
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“You have to be growing or making what you are selling.”

— Stacia Monahan

Under Beardsley’s stewardship for 22 years, as with many such markets in the state, participating farmers were allowed to sell produce that wasn’t their own but it was supposed to be grown in Connecticut.

The Monahans have been proponents of changing that approach through the years.

Mayor: Must be fair and objective

Lauretti has indicated he has no objection to that specific change but is concerned with how it will be enforced, and wants to be certain any enforcement efforts are handled in a fair and objective manner.

Some of the SFMA guidelines on what farmers may and may not sell at the market may be “unenforceable,” according to Lauretti. He also said some rules appear “arbitrary” to him.

He wanted to speak at the SFMA meeting to express his concerns, and said he was up front in doing just that. “I said it in plain English,” Lauretti explained, using an expression to explain his directness.

“I just want them to be aware of what could happen,” he said.

Wants to avoid cases of 'I gotcha'

Lauretti said he doesn’t want to see cases of “I gotcha,” or situations where vendors might be punished because other vendors or market organizers don’t like them. “Personalities can get involved in these things,” he said.

He said it may not be practical to know exactly how and where certain produce is grown, or how products such as baked goods and cheeses are made and produced.

Because of these concerns, Lauretti emphasized the importance of establishing a fair review process for any complaints or enforcement actions. His goal, he said, is “an even playing field.”

Guidelines to follow

Monahan said the SFMA has established specific guidelines to be followed, and they are fair and understandable. “Every aspect now is covered in the bylaws and guidelines,” she said.

“You have to follow the guidelines to be part of the farmers market,” Monahan said.

Some other farmers markets around Connecticut follow similar guidelines because they also are producer-only operations. The state Agriculture Department has many specific rules on running state-sanctioned farmers markets.

“A farmers market is a market for farmers,” Monahan said, explaining the SFMA approach. “So if you’re not growing it or producing it, the farmers market isn’t for you.”

Monahan said vendors who were part of the market when Beardsley oversaw it are welcome to be part of the new market as long as they, like everyone else, follow the guidelines.

She said they have been encouraged to do so and some of these vendors have become part of the new association. “They are really excited about the change,” she said.

Upcoming season

Monahan hopes to invite state agricultural officials as well as city officials to the 2015 Shelton Farmers Market opening in early June.

The market is held at the Shelton Farmers Market Building and outdoor plaza on Canal Street, at Cornell Street. This is believed to be the only municipal-owned building specifically built and used for a farmers market in the state.

The market is expected to be open on Saturdays and Wednesdays, as before, although the hours may change or expand in the future.

The SFMA is seeking people to join the organization as members, including the general public, as a way to show community support for the farmers market.

General membership is $20 a year, and those who sign up now will be SFMA charter members and their annual fees shouldn’t increase in future years.

Next meeting is May 4

The next SFMA meeting will be Monday, May 4, in the evening, with the exact time and location to be determined (probably the Shelton Farmers Market Building or City Hall).

Lauretti said he wants the Shelton Farmers Market to continue to grow and prosper. “The goal here is success,” he told SFMA members at the Monday meeting.

Learn more about the SFMA on its Facebook page (at Shelton CT Farmers Market):