[December 8, 2023]
What does it take to run a year-round farmers’ market that brings together local farms and a community that loves its veggies? A lot, it turns out, including items that wear out and need to be replaced every few years. The Hillsdale Farmers’ Market Invest & Refresh fundraiser will replace crucial equipment, but market co-managers Olivia Spitzer and Lacey Waldon say it’s about more than money—it’s also about building community.
"The Hillsdale Farmers' Market is really a community asset. When you come to one of our dine-in events, you're not only enjoying a meal or drinks with friends—you're also supporting a great local restaurant and the farmers' market at the same time," says Waldon.
Farmers’ Market supporters can donate online through the end of the year, or attend two “dine-in” events at Hillsdale restaurants. The first is at Salvador Molly’s on December 12th, with 10% of proceeds benefiting the campaign. Sasquatch Brewing Company hosts another on December 27th. Spitzer is looking forward to the opportunity to see familiar faces from the market in another setting, “Enjoying all the delicious food and drink these two businesses offer."
Over the years raffles and small fundraisers have helped bring in additional funds (last year’s online donation campaign brought in just over $1,500). This year’s fundraiser is the largest in years, with a targeted campaign to raise $15,000 by December 31st to replace worn-out equipment that is used every day the market is held: new tires for the truck, replacements for tables and canopies that have reached the end of their life, and other equipment.
Other ways to support the market: Volunteer, join the Board, or just show up and shop. The market is open year-round, weekly from March through November, and then bi-weekly during the colder months. Find the schedule at the marekt's website.
A Financial Re-Set
Until March of 2020, the Hillsdale Farmers’ Market relied on a delicate balance between summer surplus and winter deficit to stay financially healthy. The COVID-19 pandemic shutdown threw that system out of whack. Spitzer and Waldon and the Farmers’ Market Board have spent the past year looking for ways to ensure the market’s future by bringing the finances back into balance.
During the pandemic, lost market days, increased expenses and a reduction in vendors to accommodate social distancing resulted in an operating deficit that depleted reserves. Fees paid by market vendors are the main source of income. Sponsorships, in the form of cash or in-kind donations, supplement revenue or offset expenses. Expenses include salaries for the two co-managers and one part-time staff member, rent to Portland Public Schools for use of the parking lot where the market operates, signage, tents, a truck and storage space, a porta-potty, and other equipment.
The previous manager, Eamon Molloy, gave up the rented office space during the pandemic to help bring costs back in line with income. Since coming onboard as co-managers, Spitzer and Waldon have continued to scour the books for additional efficiencies and savings, such as reducing the porta-potty service contract from weekly to every other week during winter to match the market schedule and deferring replacement of worn-out equipment.
Education and access programs are an integral part of the market’s mission. Those would be the last thing the Board would want to cut, says Spitzer, and are not being considered for elimination. Power of Produce (POP Bucks) are vouchers handed out to kids to spend on fruits and vegetables, encouraging them to try new items and enjoy healthy foods. Costs for that program were $4,000 in 2022 and are on track to reach $7,000 in 2023. Until a sponsor steps up to fund this program, the market will continue to underwrite it. Other programs are funded from outside sources: Produce Match and Double Up Food Bucks extend the purchasing power of seniors and low-income recipients of SNAP benefits.
More solid financial ground will help the Market respond to new challenges, like the rebuild for Wells High School that is expected in the next few years. While the school district has indicated an intention to include space for the market in plans for the new campus, Spitzer and Waldon expect they will have to find an alternate location during construction.
“Our hope is this fundraiser will be successful and bring the market finances back to equilibrium with no further fundraisers necessary,” says Spitzer.
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