Council cuts funding to farmers’ market
At the farmers' market 10 year anniversary in 2013, Rene Schmit, LSU AgCenter County Agent for St. Charles Parish (center), congratulated Home Vegetable Garden Growing Contest winners, Doug Robicheaux and Jerry Hummel.
The farmers’ market, which has been in existence for 11 years, is funded by a parish subsidy. The first location was opened at Ormond Plantation in Destrehan and a second location was added on the West Bank in the parking lot of the Professional Learning Center in Luling.
Last year the subsidy for the organization was $30,000, but this year it was decreased to $27,000. Much of the German Coast Farmers’ Market budget goes to three employees, including a bookkeeper, media consultant and market coordinator.
Councilman Terrell Wilson questioned whether the market could at some point become self-sustaining. He asked whether the organization could survive a larger cut in the 2015 and 2016 budgets.
“You think that over a two-year period we could reduce this down to no subsidy and you operate with fewer people?” he said.
Marilyn Richoux, president of the German Coast Farmers’ Market board, said without a subsidy the market would likely cease operation within a few years due to not being able to pay employees.
“It would be very difficult because then we would have to bring in more volunteers. We have been trying to get more volunteers, really trying to get more volunteers, but people are very, very busy,” she said. “We would love to get a volunteer to handle the bookkeeping and even as coordinator, but these people are professionals and the citizens are very busy and this requires a lot of time.”
Corey Faucheux, director of Economic Development and Tourism for St. Charles Parish, said the plan for the farmers’ market has always been to gradually decrease the funding from the parish until the organization is able to fund itself from vendor fees.
“The plan from the beginning was always to gradually reduce the amount given. Now we talked this past year about putting a plan in place to do that, so this is the first step in that plan regarding the fixture expenses,” he said.
Buddy Boe, chief administrative officer for the parish, defended the subsidy saying the farmers’ market does more for the parish than just provide a place for farmers to sell fruits and vegetables and local craftsman to sell their wares.
“They do everything from entrepreneurship programs, seedling programs and programs for our businesses to buy fresh fruit. They participate in the Paul Maillard project and actually organized the popup market that was held several weeks ago,” he said. “So they provide not only just a farmers’ market, but programs and amenities that make St. Charles’ market the gold standard across the state and most of the nation.”
Richoux added that the market has allowed some local farmers to continue the tradition of being able to sell goods to the public at large.
“Our farmers are approaching 20 different generations of agricultural tradition,” she said. “It has made them able to sustain and be in that because some of them would have to give it up without venues to offer their products.”
Councilwoman Wendy Benedetto also praised the farmers’ market for its contributions to St. Charles Parish.
“Ms. Richoux, I just want to commend you on what you have been doing. I know this was small, but it has been growing larger and larger location wise and vendor wise and things like that. For those who haven’t been to it, you are missing out on a whole bunch," she said.
Councilwoman Carolyn Schexnaydre said while she appreciates what the market does for the parish, she is hesitant to maintain the subsidy.
“Nobody is against the market, we know you all are doing a wonderful job really. I do understand where they are coming from when it comes to tax dollars,” she said. “I appreciate it and if you can keep doing it you all could be self-sustaining on your own eventually.”
Richoux said while it is a possibility that the farmers’ market could survive on a reduced subsidy, a greatly reduced subsidy would hurt the market’s ability to grow.
“If it gets larger you will probably have to take on another employee, so I don’t know that it will ever be self-sustaining just with the money brought in from fees,” she said.
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