EagleTribune.com, North Andover, MA

May 17, 2013

Derry Farmers Market to end this year

Town administrator: Without more funding, there's no future

By Doug Ireland
direland@eagletribune.com

---- — DERRY — The Derry Farmers Market will end after this summer and there won’t be a winter market, Town Administrator John Anderson said yesterday.

The Town Council’s 4-3 decision to slash the market’s $21,800 budget Tuesday night means the market will continue, but with only $5,000 to fund the salary of manager Beverly Ferrante and any “associated expenses,” Anderson said.

Those expenses included money for signs and advertising, but most of it went toward Ferrante’s salary, he said.

Ferrante earned $20,800 a year — about $20 an hour — for running the market, he said. An additional $1,000 was budgeted for an assistant to help set up and take down the market each week.

But the market only earned $11,782 in revenue last year, town chief financial officer Frank Childs said.

Anderson said he met yesterday with Ferrante. She is notifying vendors the market will continue, he said, but only for this summer. The market opens June 19 and continues through September.

“She’s upset,” Anderson said. “She’s put a lot of time and work into it.”

Ferrante did not return calls for comment Wednesday or yesterday.

At about 2:30 p.m. yesterday, someone posted this message on the market’s Facebook page, “This just in: The Summer 2013 Derry Farmer’s Market is going to happen as scheduled! Thank you to the town administrator and market director. More news to be released soon.”

No further information had been posted as of yesterday evening.

The only way the market could continue is if the council decides to appropriate money beyond this year, Anderson said.

“It’s up to the council,” he said.

At least one councilor, Tom Cardon, said he hopes he and his colleagues can save the market, held in the town office parking lot on Manning Street.

“I hope we can change that,” he said. “I hope we can take a look at (keeping) it.”

But the $20,800 paid to Ferrante was excessive, Cardon said.

Cardon voted in favor of Councilor Mark Osborne’s motion to cut the budget by 77 percent earlier this week.

“I think we’re paying a lot of money for that,” Cardon said. “I think $20,800 is way too much to pay for that position.”

He said he didn’t know of any town that paid that amount of money to its farmers market manager.

Neither did Jane Lang, the volunteer manager of the Salem Farmers Market.

She said her market is run on an annual budget of $5,000, money received from vendors. That money is mostly used for gas, signs and advertising, she said.

Lang said she was shocked to hear Ferrante earned $20,800. The purpose of a farmers market is to provide fresh produce at a reasonable cost — not make a lot of money, she said.

“It’s just to keep the market going,” Lang said.

Cardon and Osborne said although they thought the town was paying too much to fund the market, they didn’t anticipate closing it.

“It was never our intention to cancel the farmers market,” Osborne said. “It was our intention to make reasonable cuts in all areas of the budget.”

He said he could not justify paying $20,800 to the market manager when revenues were half that amount,

The decision to slash the market’s budget came shortly before councilors approved a $37 million budget that included cuts to many departments, including police, Fire and Public Works, Osborne said.

As a result, there will not be an increase in the town portion of the tax rate — $10.39 per $1,000 valuation.

None of the other councilors could be reached yesterday for comment.