BERLIN – An effort is underway to form a new Farmers Market in Berlin now that WREN has decided to move the Local Works Farmers Market to Gorham.
Kathy Trumbull said she is talking to people interested in seeing a farmers market remain in Berlin and contacting vendors. Trumbull said her company, Exit Realty Trailblazers, is willing to help sponsor a portion of the restart-up costs if other sponsors come aboard.
Trumbull said she feels that the decision to move the Local Works Farmers Market to Gorham was made without a lot of local input. She noted there were no discussions with the city council and questioned how much effort was put into looking for different locations in Berlin.
Trumbull said the farmers market was part of an effort to help Berlin revitalize its reputation after decades as a mill town. In a letter she wrote to Penney, she cited efforts to beautify and enhance the city.
Trumbull also noted that part of the reason for the farmers market was to address a need for fresh fruits and vegetables in Berlin after a study labeled the city a “food desert”.
Trumbull said she agreed with others, including some vendors, that Pleasant Street was not a good location for the market because the pavement gets extremely hot. But she said there are other green spaces in the city that should have been considered including the Service Credit Union Heritage Park, Veterans Park, or Laura Lee Viger Gardens.
In particular, Trumbull said she thinks the heritage park would be a good location because there is parking, restrooms, a stage for music, and a location along the river.
WREN will continue to hold its Gorham market on Thursdays, starting June 8. If a Berlin market is organized, Trumbull said she would recommend holding it at a different time – maybe late Friday afternoon and early evening.
WREN Executive Director Elizabeth Penney said the decision to move the market to the Gorham town common was made because of problems with the Pleasant Street location. Specifically, she said the city cut off access to an empty lot close to the WREN building at 117 Main Street that the organization used for its equipment.
Discussing the issue last week at the Berlin Industrial Development and Park Authority, Berlin Community Development Director Pamela Laflamme said back in 2012 the city had fixed up an empty lot lower on Pleasant Street to serve as headquarters for the market. A local business had donated its services to put in electric hook-ups and the city had installed a gate for security. She noted BIDPA is actively trying to market the former Woolworth building at 121 Pleasant that includes the vacant lot used by WREN last year.
Laflamme said there were other issues with the Pleasant Street location for the market including a lack of shade. She noted Gorham is not that far away and the market is remaining in the region.
BIDPA member Peter Higbee said moving it to Gorham will be a loss to all the people who could access the farmers market in Berlin without driving. Laflamme said there has been some discussion about having Tri-County Community Action Program run a bus to the Gorham market.
Higbee, who is also a city councilor, noted it was BIDPA that first worked with WREN on setting up the farmers market in Berlin. WREN had received a feasibility grant from the Neil and Louise Tillotson Foundation to look at Berlin as a possible location to replicate its store and gallery in Bethlehem. As a first step, it decided to get a farmers market up and running. BIDPA agreed to provide $6,000 to cover some of initial costs. The BIDPA board hoped the market would draw people into the downtown and increase activity for local shops and restaurants.