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Farmington Farmers market vendors seek new venue

Farmington Farmers Market vendors are interested in moving the weekly market to the parking lot at the Farmington Mall off Highway 3. Kara Hildreth / contributor

Farmington Farmers Market foot traffic is dying on the vine and market vendors want a venue change for next spring.

The last two years the Farmington Farmers Market has been open Thursday afternoons at Dakota County Fairgrounds from spring through fall. Prior to that, the market venue was open weekly downtown in front of city hall.

Market vendor Arlyn Lamb spoke during the open forum Monday, Oct. 16, at the Farmington City Council meeting about a potential venue change on behalf of farmers and vendors who sell goods and fresh produce.

"We found that we haven't been making much as far as customers down there," Lamb said. "Some days there would be no customers for an hour or longer."

"We started out with 17 vendors who signed up for the year, and due to a lack of customer base immediately after the fair the number of customer base was down to nine," Lamb added. After Labor Day, market foot traffic numbers were even less.

Three vendors indicated they would not be back next year if the farmers market is located at the fairgrounds and another three earlier in the year report the same.

Lamb listed positive reasons for hosting the market at the fairgrounds as good parking, shade trees and not interfering with business traffic. The negatives for the fairgrounds site are lack of visibility to passing traffic even with posted signs and no foot traffic.

The fairgrounds offered transportation to seniors who live in downtown via trolley rides to the fairgrounds. Only three or four seniors who live at Spruce Street Apartments and Oak Manor took advantage of the ride to the market, Lamb said.

A couple vendors spoke with new management at Farmington Mall or the former Town's Edge strip mall located off Highway 3, about a potential move to that parking lot next spring.

"We thought Town's Edge would be an ideal place for market," Lamb said.

The positives for moving the market to Town's Edge includes enough parking not to interfere with business, two busy commuter roads on Highway 3 and Highway 50, good visibility, and businesses in the mall would increase foot traffic.

Lamb said he was not aware of any negatives of this move, but he said there may be some that crop up.

"We have been talking with the people who are leasing the property and they would love for us to come down, and it would give us a lot more exposure because there are two main highways," Lamb said.

"We are also aware there are some city members who would like to have the market back downtown," Lamb said.

Stating the pros and cons of the market returning to downtown, Lamb said the positives may be this location may bring more business for the downtown businesses. There may be no positives for the market vendors in returning downtown, Lamb said.

Negatives in the downtown venue would be no high traffic, lack of visibility for commuter traffic, disrupts city employee parking, and not enough street parking for market customers without disrupting library patrons with that parking lot, Lamb said.

Farmington Mayor Todd Larson said the city staff and council will discuss the issue and get back to the market vendors.

"We understand this is private property that we would be moving to," Lamb said.

The farmers market vendors appreciate the city's marketing efforts via the city's website and Facebook page and the city granting the permits needed.

Fourteen signatures from local and area farmers and vendors show support to move the market to the HIghway 3 Farmington Mall parking lot next spring.

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