Graham’s city council approved an amendment to the city’s code of ordinances that will allow farmer’s markets to operate on private property, regardless of how the property is zoned.
The ordinance previously allowed no more than two farmer’s markets per month; the amended ordinance allows no more than one per week.
First United Methodist Church of Graham, at 303 North Main Street, requested the change in order to hold a farmer’s market every Wednesday, running from June 1 to September of this year.
Mayor pro tem Ricky Hall said, “They’re [First United Methodist Church] really wanting the city to take it over but they’re willing to get it off the ground.”
Councilman Bobby Chin said that the church is “really wanting to make it a prototype for the city,” which the church would discontinue its farmer’s market once the city established one.
“Is this something we can make a city-sanctioned event since we’re trying to get this as a pilot project for a city farmer’s market?” asked Hall.
Graham city planner Justin Snyder told the council this week that Healthy Alamance, a nonprofit healthcare education organization, has also expressed interest in collaborating with the city to establish a permanent farmer’s market.
Assistant city manager Aaron Holland said the city would need to investigate the legal ramifications. “I guess those conversations can be had,” he added. “I would love to know what the city could do, and what the attorneys find out.”
First United Methodist Church would leave it up to individual vendors to obtain any required permits to sell at the farmer’s market, according to two representatives from the church, Fran Bryant and Margaret Skulnick, who discussed the church’s request with the city council Tuesday night. Vendors who sell non-produce goods would need to follow local health department guidelines, Skulnick said.
“We’re looking to have the farmer’s market in our parking lots on Wednesdays, from 3:00 to 6:00 [p.m.], beginning on June 1st,” Skulnick told the council this week. “We’ve spoken to many farmers. We have two goals: one is to bring fresh food to downtown Graham; and secondly is to give small farmers the opportunity to sell their produce.
“Farmers are really struggling right now,” Skulnick added. “They’re having a hard time getting people to work on their farms because they can’t compete with the prices that McDonalds is paying for people to work and things like that. So we want to give them an opportunity to sell their produce, and we are not charging any fees. Healthy Alamance, when they do it, they charge, like, $75 for a vendor to be able to sell their produce. We’re just saying, ‘if you’re a small farmer, we want you here.’ This is a pilot project, a first-year opportunity, and we are hoping we can get a number of farmers – we have had good input so far. The resounding thing they say is, ‘well, it’s about time Graham did something.’”
“We think it’s important for consistency so people will know we’re there every Wednesday,” Bryant explained, “versus the first or [third weeks].”
Hall asked whether it would be possible to extend the operating hours for the farmer’s market at the church to 7:00 p.m. on Wednesdays.
Skulnick said the church would inquire with the farmers.
“I’m excited for this,” Graham mayor Jennifer Talley said. “This is certainly something that councilman Hall has been pushing for quite a while now to try to make sure we get more availability of fruits and vegetables here in Graham.”
Skulnick and Bryant assured the council that no street closures would be needed and that FUMC has plenty of parking to accommodate the farmer’s market at a parking lot on the corner of North Main Street and Albright Avenue.
The council voted 5-0 to amend the temporary outdoor sales ordinance to allow farmer’s markets to operate on private property once per week.