The vendors of the Downtown Sarasota Farmers Market will ask city commissioners July 6 to consider shifting control of the market from the Downtown Partnership, where it has been for 30 years, and place it in the hands of the vendors themselves.
Greg Roy, who sits on the vendors’ advisory committee, delivered a petition to City Hall this week signed by representatives of 38 of the market’s 55 vendors.
“The vendors’ interests are not given priority,” Roy said. “It’s through their hard work that the market has become as successful as it has.”
Vice Mayor Kelly Kirschner said the vendors had approached all five city commissioners to rally support for the move.
“When there’s near unanimity from the vendors, we should listen to what they have to say,” he said.
Interim Farmers Market Manager Ken Shelin, a former city commissioner, said he doesn’t see the rationale for taking control away from the Downtown Partnership.
“They don’t have a reason besides that other markets are vendor-run,” Shelin said. “They’re not prepared for control.”
Vendor Phil Pagano had been managing the market for a couple of years, but he was fired in March, because he failed to collect rent from some fellow vendors and was also behind on his own rent.
The market runs a similar risk, said Shelin, if vendors control it.
“You have a fundamental conflict when you manage yourself,” he said.
“I hope the commission will see that it’s in the city’s best interest to keep the market as vibrant as it can be,” he said. “It doesn’t make sense to have people without a vested interest in control of the market.”
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