Elon’s town council has decided to hire a new, part-time staff member to oversee a farmers’ market that a local nonprofit group has operated, as of late, on the grounds of Elon Community Church.
The council resolved to create this new position on Monday after Elon’s town manager Rich Roedner acknowledged that the nonprofit Healthy Alamance will no longer be administering this market or either of the other two that it has been running in Mebane and Burlington.
Roedner attributed the organization’s decision to the loss of a grant that, for the past two budget cycles, has been augmented by a match from Elon’s own municipal coffers. Roedner added that the town’s current budget still includes $15,000 that had been set aside for this match, which he urged the council reallocate toward a new, part-time employee who would take over the market’s administration.
The farmer’s market at Elon Community Church had originally been a volunteer-run enterprise, although its management was eventually taken over by Healthy Alamance as part of a broader push to encourage healthier eating habits among area residents.
A charitable division of Greensboro-based Cone Health, Healthy Alamance ultimately brought in a full-time staff member to oversee this market as well as its counterparts in Mebane and Burlington. The funds to cover this program apparently came from Impact Alamance, another nonprofit creation of Cone’s, which the Greensboro-based hospital chain launched when it bought out Alamance Regional Medical Center.
According to Roedner, Healthy Alamance was initially able to run the farmer’s market in Elon without any financial support from the town. This era of fiscal independence nevertheless ended in the past fiscal year, when the organization first requested the match that has since been incorporated into the town’s annual budget.
Under the auspices of Healthy Alamance, the Elon farmer’s market had convened at 3:00 p.m. every Thursday during an eight-month stretch that ran from mid April until the week before Thanksgiving. Roedner promised the council that the market could resume this same schedule if the town hires someone ASAP to take over its management.
He added that, with the funds already in the budget, the town could have this individual on call 20 hours a week throughout the market’s eight-month at a pay rate of $15 an hour.
Roedner’s request for this new employee initially drew a skeptical response from councilman Monti Allison, who questioned whether a market once run by volunteers was even worthy of a new staff-level posting.
“I find it hard to imagine what that person would do for 20 hours,” he told the rest of the group.
Jill Weston, the town’s downtown development director, acknowledged that she, too, had initially assumed that the farmer’s market could be overseen by the town’s existing staff.
“I thought we have to continue this because it’s a tradition,” she said as she recalled her first blush response to the news about Healthy Alamance’s withdrawal. “But at this point, I’ve absorbed what that means…and I can’t handle this on top of everything else…I’m basically just asking for some help.”
With just two months left before the farmer’s market anticipated opening date, the council gave Roedner the go-ahead to fill the position. The prevailing mood on the matter was perhaps best summed up by councilmember Stephanie Bourland, who spoke up moments before she and her colleagues reached a consensus to fund the new hire.
“If we already have the money slated,” she said, “and if you feel you can find somebody to get this job done, let’s get the job done.”
Read the newspaper’s editorial opinion on the town council’s action: https://alamancenews.com/elon-town-council-philosophy-waste-a-little-waste-a-lot/
Read other recent stories related to Elon:
Town council will draw from savings to join Link Transit bus system: https://alamancenews.com/town-of-elon-will-join-link-transit-bus-system/
Elon University celebrates rebuilding after devastating 1923 fire: https://alamancenews.com/100-years-after-a-fire-that-destroyed-most-of-a-fledgling-college-campus-elon-university-celebrates-rebuilding/
Elon fire truck ends up in a ditch on way to repair: https://alamancenews.com/fire-engine-out-of-commission-after-mishap-with-tow-truck/