BY ETHAN FORMAN
---- — DANVERS — The Rotary Club has withdrawn its proposal to open a farmers market downtown, saying the idea needs more time to take root.
Instead, they hope to return to selectmen next year with a more comprehensive plan.
“It wasn’t an easy decision by any means,” said Bill Nolan, a local chiropractor and member of the Rotary Club of Danvers, which proposed the farmers market downtown. The service club first suggested the Hobart Street parking lot as its site, then the long parking lot adjacent to Town Hall. The market had been proposed for Wednesday afternoons from mid-June to mid-October.
A Danvers farmers market would follow on the heels of those in Salem, Beverly, Peabody, Marblehead, Swampscott, Ipswich, Topsfield and Middleton.
Danvers appears to be fertile ground to start a farmers market.
The Danvers Farmers Market Facebook page has drawn nearly 1,400 “likes.” And Nolan said that with little effort, he was able to get 300 signatures on a petition. Vendors from all over have been reaching out to him, he said.
But the group faced some resistance from business people concerned that the market would compete with downtown stores or parking for those stores. In a letter to selectmen, C.R. Lyons, chairman of the Downtown Improvement Committee, said his group needed more details about how the market would work before deciding whether to back it.
Gardner Trask, chairman of the Board of Selectmen, said selectmen plan to follow the lead of the Downtown Improvement Committee in the matter.
Faced with the need to provide more information to the town and business leaders, organizers decided it is getting too late in the season to pull off the kind of market that would make an impact in town. A small market with few vendors would be possible, but Nolan said it would be better for organizers to wait until next year and do things right.
“Let’s pull back the reins; let’s make it happen next year,” said Nolan, adding that he is, nevertheless, disappointed. Nolan said he and others plan to consult with a group called Mass Farmers Markets to learn more about starting a market in Danvers. Finding the right location will be key.
Selectman Dan Bennett said a lot of questions need to be answered, including how the market might comply with Board of Health regulations and what rules the market might follow. For instance, would it allow vendors to sell only locally grown produce or farm products grown or produced throughout the state or New England?
Selectman Bill Clark, a farmer with a long involvement with farmers markets in the region, said it makes sense to hold off. “I think they are better off to wait a year and have it well planned,” he said.
Clark said organizers need to contact all the farmers in town to gauge their interest. That would include not only Clark’s farm, but Connors Farm, Gibney Gardens, Folly Hill Farm, Kane’s Flower World and Lanes End Farm, which is a horse farm. He said they should also contact the operators of Danvers Fresh Marketplace, a small grocery store that sells fresh produce downtown.
“If they have it, I’ll go to it,” Clark said of the Danvers market. But he also cautioned that it’s a lot of work to run, and dozens of volunteers will be needed.
Clark suggested that organizers approach the Salem Chamber of Commerce to see how this group helped organize a popular farmers market in downtown Salem several years ago. This market, which opens its sixth season on June 12, is made possible by Salem Main Streets, a downtown revitalization group; the city of Salem; and the Salem chamber.
Clark said he thinks farmers markets do well in cities and town that do not have farms.
“The problem is they are getting late in the season to get the farms on board, because most of us are committed or overcommitted” to other farmers markets, Clark said.
Lyons, from Danvers’ Downtown Improvement Committee, said he’d prefer to see a farmers market outside the downtown, which has limited space and parking, and instead suggested Endicott Park, noting that it has plenty of parking and bathrooms.
Staff writer Ethan Forman can be reached at 978-338-2673, by email at firstname.lastname@example.org or on Twitter at @DanverSalemNews.