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May 13, 2009 9:16 AMPublication: The Southampton Press

Debate over Southampton farmers market continues

May 13, 2009 9:16 AM

The debate over the creation of a Sunday morning farmers market in Southampton Village continued this week as both sides came together to air out their differences.

Southampton Village Board member Bonnie Cannon is leading the charge for the farmers market, but has run into considerable resistance from some local merchants and farmers who say it would benefit outside vendors at the expense of their homegrown businesses. Ms. Cannon organized an “awareness session” on Monday evening at the Southampton Cultural Center, to hear out her critics and try to allay their fears. She brought in four speakers—a farmer, a baker, a New York State Department of Agriculture and Markets representative and the manager of the Westhampton Beach Farmers Market—to talk about their past experiences with farmers markets and outline the benefits. The meeting did little to persuade the idea’s opponents.

Ms. Cannon told the critics it’s not fair to presume a farmers market would have a negative effect on local businesses before the idea has even been fully explored and discussed.

“Instead of talking about why we can’t do it, let’s talk about how it could work,” she said.

The reason it won’t work, her opponents said, is that a farmers market would force vendors to compete with their own suppliers, who could undercut them.

“Wholesalers can sell a lot cheaper than retailers,” said Bob Schepps, president of the Southampton Chamber of Commerce and a bagel wholesaler.

Mr. Schepps said Southampton is a unique village where merchants only have “100 days to make a living.” The loss of even one day a week could be a serious detriment to their livelihood, he said.

Produce grocer Dennis Schmidt of Schmidt’s Market said Southampton Village is a big oyster that everyone would like to take a bite of, but everyone isn’t paying the high rent he and others pay to operate a business there year round—including during the lean winter months.

And Jean Mackenzie of Clamman Seafood Market in Southampton Village said that while she believes competition is good for business, considering the state of the economy, this is not the year to introduce a farmers market. Ms. Mackenzie said she fears if she doesn’t participate in the farmers market, she won’t sell anything on those Sunday mornings. But if she does participate, she will effectively have to start up a new business to compete with her own shop.

She also questioned if vendors at the farmers market would be subject to the same Board of Health and Department of Environmental Conservation regulations she must follow at her store.

Elsie Collins of the Westhampton Farmers Market said that the Board of Health does indeed regulate farmers markets and that all size limits for catching and selling fish are also enforced.

A refrain that proponents of the farmers market oft repeated at Monday’s meeting was “it’s four hours on a Sunday,” arguing that a few hours in the morning could not possibly have the severe negative effects to farmers and merchants some are expecting. And Ms. Cannon said a Sunday market will stir an interest in local businesses that will spill over to the other six days of the week.

“There are so many people you would be surprised that don’t even know you exist,” she told Mr. Schmidt and Ms. Mackenzie.

Ian Calder-Piedmonte and his partner, Alex Balsam, operate 50 acres of East End farmland and have a farm stand on the corner of Town and Windmill lanes in Amagansett. The farmers also bring their produce to the East Hampton and Westhampton farmers markets each summer. “It’s been a really good way for us to get some exposure,” Mr. Calder-Piedmonte said.

Keith Kouris, the owner and baker at Southampton Village’s Blue Duck Bakery Café, agreed, calling participating in a farmers market a form of advertising that an ad in a newspaper or magazine cannot compare to. “Your customers are seeing you in a different light,” he said. “It puts a face to your business.”

Mr. Kouris is already a part of the Sag Harbor, East Hampton and Westhampton farmers markets, and said each gives him a sense of community and the opportunity to talk directly with his customers about his products.

Bob Lewis of the New York State Department of Agriculture and Markets said farmers markets put money back into the local economy and play an educational role for children. “The vitality of the market, I feel, is one of the most important aspects to it,” he added.

Ms. Collins said the chief benefit of the Westhampton Farmers Market has been to bring different groups in the community together. She said Westhampton had its local people and its city people, but “never the twain shall meet.” However, since the farmers market opened, the barrier between the year-round and seasonal communities has dissipated, she said. Between 700 and 800 shoppers come each Saturday to the market, held on Mill Road next the Westhampton Historical Society, which sponsors the event.

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The Farmers Market in WHB is a success so why not have one in Southampton ? The retailers in WHB didn't object to the idea of a Farmers Market.
By PrivateerMatt (390), Weesuck Creek , EQ on May 13, 09 12:52 PM
I have lived 20 years in the hamptons and have a store in southampton. presently i have a store in florida where a farmers market takes place every sunday. Sundays are a big business day for us as the market brings in many people who shop there but mostly shop at our businesses. Your clientele will always be your clientele as long as they are satisfied.So keep up your customer service levels and dont worry about losing business, just look forward to the possible future clientele it will bring in ...more
By balloon lady (1), southampton on May 14, 09 9:37 AM
I said it before and I will say it again: only in the Hamptons could farmers OBJECT to a fun, exciting place to sell more produce!
By littleplains (305), olde england on May 14, 09 10:25 AM
I said it before and I will say it again: only in the Hamptons could farmers OBJECT to a fun, exciting place to sell more produce!

If store owners would wake up and think about it, they could use the market as a way to drive traffic to their shops on other days... Buy something at the market, get a coupon to the store on Wednesday.
By littleplains (305), olde england on May 14, 09 10:29 AM
There's hardly an argument against the market when you look at the basis for same. All those opposed to the market assume that the people shopping at the market would otherwise be shopping at the local retailers and/or farmstands. Keep telling yourselves that while I buy my produce at Stop & Shop (except for Hank's melons!). If there was a farmers market I would definitely give it a try.
By diy_guy (101), Southampton on May 14, 09 11:48 AM
Those opposed to the market say it will undercut retail prices . . . So? Healthy competition for business benefits all of us. Why should Dennis Schmidt, or any other reatiler for that matter, be allowed to dictate produce pricing? His prices are too high for many locals. Farmer's markets bring communities together and promote local good. I'll be the first in line each Sunday
By peoplefirst (787), Southampton on May 14, 09 12:49 PM
I do think that this is a advertising opportunity for local farmers and small producers of jams, baked goods and even fish and cheese. Staff is hard to come by during the summer -- what about employing local youth and turning this into a community project that teaches entrepreneurship, marketing and ag skills to young people and engages them in regional food production? For more on farm and food and some good locavore recipes check out lightheartedlocavore.com -- a realist's guide to eating local ...more
By vanlexi (8), Southampton on May 14, 09 6:49 PM
There is more to worry about than the Farmer's Market.... there is competition in Riverhead that is taking alot of your business away. BetYet has some of the best fruits and vegetables at AFFORDABLE prices. The word is out...you see alot of Hamptonites shopping there. Prices are way to high east of the canal and its all about the name.
By AnonymousSgh (183), Sag Harbor on May 15, 09 7:57 AM
I fully support the farmers market.
By deKooning (106), southampton on May 15, 09 3:55 PM
I think the farmers market could be good a good idea. I do feel for the local farmers having to deal with high rent and every other extra that comes with living and farming on the east end. I feel for anyone trying to run a business out here not to mention raise a family and live out here. Things have changed in the short 35 years I have been out here. However, if you take a look at other farmers markets around the country I think they all have similarities. They all promote community and are ...more
By DOTTS76 (8), HAMPTON BAYS on May 15, 09 5:06 PM
I see this as another great opportunity for me and my family to enjoy the outdoors on Sunday mornings! Full support here!
By landarchi (33), Southampton on May 15, 09 10:02 PM
This comment has been removed because it is a duplicate, off-topic or contains inappropriate content.
By Bob Schepps (77), Southampton on May 17, 09 9:06 PM
I think if we work together we can find a way to have a real consenus and have a great farmers market. We have to respect the people working year round to keep the Village an attraction. If you look at what the panel had said about meeting the growers and learning about locally grown produce it really implies an owner being there. You can't acomplish what they say is the main benifit with hired help. Therefore for the local merchants to participate it would be best to do this out of season like ...more
By Bob Schepps (77), Southampton on May 17, 09 9:06 PM
Farmers Market a Great Idea. Free advertising and a way fro the merchants to further market their goods. Should be done. The few biggest objecters should partivcpate as an extra way to sell. Lots of high school kids and collage kids looking for a job this summer so it would be a nother way to support the community. Great jobs and show what a great place we live in.
By North Sea Citizen (568), North Sea on May 18, 09 6:26 AM
I'd bet that if Dennis Schmidt visited a Village Farmers Market he'd be able to pick up a few product that he could sell in his store SEVEN DAYS A WEEK.

Here's a possible scenerio:

Person 1: "Oh man I really love that Bridgehampton Beeswax but I can only get it on Sundays at the Farmer's Market".

Person 2: "No way! Did you hear that Dennis started selling it a Schmidts; now you can get it any day you want, but if you want it Monday-Saturday, you have to see Dennis".

How ...more
By Agawam Yacht Club (69), Southampton on May 18, 09 4:28 PM
(Those opposed to the market say it will undercut retail prices . . . So? Healthy competition for business benefits all of us. Why should Dennis Schmidt, or any other reatiler for that matter, be allowed to dictate produce pricing? His prices are too high for many locals. Farmer's markets bring communities together and promote local good. I'll be the first in line each Sunday report as inappropriate)

I am a local and shop around for prices on common food items all the time. ...more
By aggrivatedhampton (2), Southampton on May 18, 09 4:48 PM
But not necessarily less than at your local vegetable stand
By peoplefirst (787), Southampton on May 19, 09 8:05 PM
Again for all those against high prices and for fair competition, I guess you have no consept of the cost of running a retail business in the village of SH. It was said at the forum we had that one business pays more in one month to have his scales inspected than the entire fee's discribed by the woman for Westhampton's farmers market. I guess you nameless comentators don't believe in fair competition after all. Regarding the management of the "market"; by placing the health and safety of the public ...more
By Bob Schepps (77), Southampton on Sep 20, 09 10:14 PM