The St. Clair Farmers Market is in need of community support and produce vendors, according to the market president.
Gerrie Brinker, president of the nonprofit organization, said the market is down to eight vendors. At the end of 2016 there were 20.
“Our market is still in trouble,” Brinker said.
A lack of community support, customers and vegetable vendors are a few reasons why the market is dwindling, according to Brinker.
“We put out calls to the community for vendors, vegetable vendors, we never get any kind of replies,” she said.
The Farmers Market board tried to apply for a grant that would provide vegetable vendors.
“Nobody in the community got behind us and we lost the grant. And now the grant isn’t even available under this new (President Donald) Trump administration. We’ve lost out in a big way with that,” Brinker said.
The market currently consists of one meat vendor, crafters, bakers and a couple of people selling vegetables from their gardens.
“People don’t patronize the market enough that we keep losing vendors,” she said.
In the three years she has been president, Brinker said the market has held monthly events, has run newspaper advisements and coupons, and more to spread awareness and gain community interest.
“We’ve tried everything to get people to come with all the advertising we’ve done and we’re still struggling,” Brinker said.
“We still find people (who) don’t know we have a market in St. Clair and we’ve been there for seven years now.”
“We’re not sure what to do other than going door to door and placing flyers in mailboxes or something like that.”
She explained that this situation is a catch-22. If not enough people visit the market, then the vendors will pull out.
“We’ve lost a lot of our vendors to other markets where they can actually make a living from and I hate to see that happen,” Brinker said. “The vendors won’t stay if they can’t make a living.”
If the market does not receive more community support moving forward, Brinker said the market will close.
“We just need help from the community or the market will fold,” she said. “I don’t know how much plainer we can tell the public we need their support.”
The market has brought in $7,000 the past three years, according to Brinker.
“The market is a very capable business in our community and the fact that we’re not-for-profit, I think enhances us because we’re not there just to grub money so to speak because the money we get in, we have to turn around and use,” she said.
At the end of the season, Brinker will be stepping down as president. Three new board members will take over until official elections next February.
Roger Bardot will take over as president, Deb Hogan will be secretary-treasurer and Kim Gordon will be vice president. Brinker said hopefully the new board will have ideas to improve the market.
“I really hope that this new board can move forward with the support of the community,” she said.
In the past, the market has started programs such as the “Power of Produce” and rock painting for kids, which sparked interest in surrounding markets, according to Brinker.
“Everything we did kind of spurred others around us to emulate what we were doing,” she said. “I think that’s pretty impressive.”
She said the market is the only place in the community that offers pesticide free produce when it is available, as well as American-made crafts.
“As much rhetoric as you hear about buying American and, you know, people don’t want to buy from China, well where are all these people?
“Why aren’t these people checking out what our vendors are doing and what kind of crafts they have,” Brinker said.
Besides having people come to the market, Brinker said she would also like to see community members share Farmers Market Facebook posts to help spread the word. The page can be found at facebook.com/groups/St.ClairFarmersMarket.
On Oct. 7, the market will hold a customer appreciation day. Brinker said events will be held with details soon to be announced.
The Farmers Market is open every Saturday through October from 8 a.m. to noon. It is located in the field next to St. Clair Health Mart Pharmacy.