Downtown WF Development to take over Farmers Market

WICHITA FALLS, Texas (KAUZ) – Downtown Wichita Falls Development has elected not to renew the lease with the Farmers Market Association and plans to keep it under its own management.

The president of the association said he was taken by surprise when he learned of it on Friday morning. He said he had no idea Downtown Development was planning to go in that direction and that they had in fact been in touch this week with plans to sit down and talk next week, but now he preparing to move.

“There was no indication,” said Scott Poenitzsch, president of the Farmers Market Association.

Poenitzsch thought talks were going in the right direction regarding a new lease, but they found out Friday morning that Downtown Development would take over running the Farmers’ Market.

“This morning my phone lit up a bit with people calling me saying you saw the message from Downtown Development,” Poenitszch said. “I hadn’t, so I went to watch it and was actually quite surprised that they put the whole thing online. Essentially, they are unwilling to move forward with the Farmers Market Association in negotiations and have issued an eviction notice.

“Since January, it has emerged from our negotiations with all parties involved that there are beliefs and a lack of ability to compromise on key elements related to this lease,” said Becky Raeke, interim president of Downtown. Wichita Falls Development. said.

Downtown Development said this decision was made for the sellers. They did not believe it was fair for the association to try to increase booth or booth fees to reflect the cost that was in the proposed rental agreement.

“The farmers’ market needs to be accessible,” Raeke said. “You can’t price people, you can’t price vendors, so going from $20 or $25 per booth to $60 or $80 kind of undermines the focus of what really is the farmers market.”

But one supplier is skeptical whether Downtown Development will be able to save suppliers money.

“I’m here as a landlord and vendor to refute that running the market through downtown development will somehow save farmers and vendors money,” said Carol Castro, vendor at the Farmers’ Market. .

She said any seller who is a member of the association gets a $5 discount on their stall or booth fees, which adds up when you’re there every Saturday.

“I spent $2,640 total through the Wichita Falls Farmer Market Association,” Castro said. “Under Downtown Development, if they were to actually take over management, I would pay $3,300 a year, which is $660 more than what I pay under the association.”

The Farmers Market Association said it didn’t want things to end like this. They are open to discussion with Downtown Development, but are also willing to relocate.

“We found up to 10 different locations, both in the city and in the immediate county, very generous offers to pick up and move the farmers’ market to those locations,” Poenitzsch said.

Poenitzsch said he thinks it will affect downtown businesses because of the number of vendors who follow the association wherever they go.

“We are very disappointed that it ended like this,” Poenitzsch said. “Many local downtown businesses have contacted me saying this is going to be devastating to their business as the general feeling is that all Farmers Market Association members are likely to move to where we find our new home. »

There are 127 association members and 34 non-members who are vendors. The Farmers’ Market is not closing, but Downtown Development will take over starting August 20.

They said that regardless of how many vendors choose to stay or leave, Downtown Development is prepared to meet the city’s requested cost without increasing their booth price or booth fees.

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James V. Payne