CROMWELL – The Cromwell Farmer's Market is coming back to town this summer for its second year. But in the meantime, the market's manager, Heather Polke, is fighting to make it easier and cheaper for vendors to set up shop.
Polke says she’s researched more than 100 other farmer's markets in Connecticut and found Cromwell’s fees to be higher and its application process to be longer than in other towns.
“I’ve spoken with chiefs of police. I’ve talked with market managers. I’ve talked with health districts. It’s one extra step for these vendors that we’re trying to alleviate. We want to make this process less,” said Polke.
Polke would like to see the farmer's market fall under the town’s rules for non-profit and charitable organizations, which typically are exempt from fees. The Cromwell Farmer's Market is recognized on a federal level as a 501(c)(3).
“We’re all trying to figure everything out, but we want it to be where it’s fair. Because for some reason we’re being treated unfairly,” said Polke.
Under proposed amendments to the town ordinances on food establishments and peddling and soliciting, vendors have to apply for a permit. Certain vendors such as farmers or already established town businesses don’t have to pay the fees.
Food prepared and consumed on premises would be charged $50 per market or $100 per season, while vendors selling pre-packaged goods are charged $30 per market or $60 per season. Peddlers and solicitors would pay a fee of $50 per month or $200 per season for food items or $25 per season for crafts or non-edible merchandise.
“$300 is a lot of money, especially if I have somebody selling doughnuts or Italian ice. You’ve got to sell a lot of $2 Italian ices to make that back,” said Polke.
Town Manager Anthony Salvatore says the town of Cromwell supports the farmer's market and the application process is a matter of public safety.
“We want to make sure they’re properly vetted to make sure they have their proper licenses and tax papers,” explained Salvatore.
In terms of fees, Salvatore says the town has to protect and be fair to its brick and mortar businesses as well.
“I think we’ve been extremely reasonable in what we’re putting forth,” he said.
There is a public hearing on these ordinances and several others on Wednesday night at 6 p.m. at the Cromwell Town Hall.
Polke plans to present her research and bring along a non-profit attorney to plead their case.
Polke said, “We want to see [the farmers market] grow and grow and grow.”