Submitted by Suanne Z. Thamm
Reporter- News Analyst
Is there a new, expanded farmers market in downtown Fernandina Beach’s future? If so, when? If so, where? Fernandina Beach City Commissioners at their September 4, 2012 regular meeting seemed eager to move forward with a new farmers market to replace the old market that relocated over the Labor Day weekend to the south end of Amelia Island. Two potential organizers of new markets addressed the commission, each providing a view of increased possibilities for such a venture.
Fernandina Beach chiropractors Dr. Elizabeth Harrelson-Lee and Dr. Joseph M. Lee have been planning to open a farmers market on property they own on the corner of 14th and Lime Streets. With the sudden departure of the 7th Street farmers market, they expressed a willingness to open at the vacated downtown location instead, as early as September 8. Mr. Jeff Malone, who has had experience with farmers markets in other cities, also expressed an interest in resuming a downtown farmers market. Both parties, joined by three audience members, believed that the riverfront would be a better location for the market than the 7th Street location. Mr. Tom Hughes, President of the Historic Downtown Merchants Association, also expressed support for resumption of a downtown farmers market.
Many ideas were put forward to expand what has been traditionally a market to vend plants, fruits, vegetables and prepared foods. Mrs. Lee suggested ways to feature downtown merchants and add an arts element, similar to the Riverside Arts Market (RAM) held in Jacksonville. The commissioners encouraged the Lees and Mr. Malone to work together on a longer-range plan that could be brought back to the commission for consideration.
In looking forward concerns were raised regarding the competition among various events for the riverfront venue, the original ground rules put in place to govern what could be sold at such a market, and the possibility for the city to raise revenues from such a project. There were also concerns that additional potential market organizers might be interested in the downtown location.
Commissioner Tim Poynter said that he wanted to see something sooner, rather than later, replacing the former farmers market. City Manager Joe Gerrity echoed this sentiment, indicating that the city should capitalize on the public’s current support for a continuing market presence.
By consensus the commission agreed that the Lees, who had already obtained insurance coverage and done the ground work for a market at the 14th and Lime Streets location, should be able to operate a market on the basis of a special event permit on a week to week basis at the 7th Street location until further recommendations could be studied and acted upon.
Despite short lead-time, the Lees were confident that they would be open for business on Saturday, September 8, with at least some vendors.
September 7, 2012 6:55 a.m.