Vendors finding different Saturday locations after Bloomington suspends farmers market for two weeks over public safety concerns

Less than 24-hours after Bloomington’s mayor, John Hamilton, announced the suspension of the city’s downtown farmers market for the next two Saturdays, market vendors have started coming up with a few possible alternate locations.

Farmers Market Closed Screenshot Screen Shot 2019-07-30 at 9.28.40 AM
A screenshot of the City of Bloomington’s online calendar.

One of them—to the northwest, at Smith Pike off SR-46 in Urban Air’s parking lot—is definite. [Update: Hanna emailed  The Beacon on Thursday afternoon, Aug. 1, to say it looks like most people are heading to Bloomingfoods/Kmart, so it’s cancelled.] Another definite location, on the east side of town at E. Bethel Lane, still has some details to be worked out. Another possible east-side location, in the old Kmart parking lot,  is not yet nailed down.

Updated 07-30-2019 at 6:04 pm: Bloomington Bagel Co. has posted a message on its FB page saying they’re looking for vendors to “adopt” offering free use of their patio space. The FB post directs vendors to contact Bloomington Parks staff for details.

The decision to shutter the market for two Saturdays came after weeks of increasing tension there, and concerns about public safety, when ties between one of the vendors, Schooner Creek Farm, and white-supremacist causes were publicized by community members. Last Saturday, Bloomington police arrested Cara Caddoo, an Indiana University professor of history, for holding a sign protesting the vendor, outside an area in the market that’s designated in the vendor’s handbook as “Information Alley.”

This Saturday and next, from 8 a.m. to 1 p.m., regular farmers market patrons who are accustomed to buying beef from Jeff Hanna’s Triple H Wagyu Cattle Company can find the characteristically highly-marbled meat sold in the parking lot of Urban Air on the northwest side of Bloomington.

It’s off SR-46 West, on the way to Ellettsville at Smith Pike and SR-46. Hanna had to clear a low hurdle to clear to get permission from Urban Air—he’s the owner. Hanna told The Beacon his landlord also thought it was a great idea and saw it as a kind of public service. His wife also supported the idea, Hanna said.

In a telephone interview, Hanna said he is inviting up to around 25 other vendors to join him—it’s just what the space can hold. The $25 apiece he’s asking them to pay will go to cover portable toilets, which he told The Beacon will cost $200. He’ll take people on a first-come-first-served basis. They don’t need to be regular farmers market vendors, he said, but he’s “not going to have a flea market, either.” He said, “It’s got to be produce, meat, flowers, whatever people sell at the market.”

His son’s food truck will be there, Hanna said, and he hopes to have someone with a breakfast-food type food truck, too. He’s reaching out personally to some other vendors who have become friends over the 15 years he’s been selling at the market. Hanna’s contact information is listed on the City of Bloomington’s farmers market vendor directory.

Mike Record, with New Ground Farm, a USDA-certified organic vegetable farm, emailed The Beacon to say they’ll have their wares at Bethel Farm Stop, on E. Bethel Lane, on the east side of town. He’s still working on pulling together the details. [This piece will be updated, as soon as they’re known.]

Cortland Carrington’s American Mushroom & Spice Co. sells mushrooms, honey, and herbs at the Bloomington Farmers Market. Carrington emailed The Beacon to say that an effort was underway to get permission to set up a temporary market at the old east-side Kmart parking lot, behind Bloomingfoods. That possibility was still pending as of Tuesday afternoon.

Jordan Meurer of Meurer’s Produce emailed to say he’ll be at Owen County Farmers Market in Spencer.

Carrington is a member of the Bloomington Farmers Market Advisory Council. About the decision by the mayor to shut down the market for two weeks, he said, “I was just as surprised by the City’s actions as everyone else; however, I feel the action was in the best interest of public safety, considering the volatility of the last two weeks.”

Carrington said he personally saw “several handguns, and at least 30 pocketed knives floating around the market.” Carrington said he’s a veteran with three tours in Iraq and Afghanistan, so he has “a keen eye for spotting potential weapons.” “I feel the City made the right call all things considered,” Carrington said.

Hanna told The Beacon he’d not personally witnessed handguns or knives. But about the reports of such weapons, Hanna said, “I can guarantee he’s not making it up.”

“The last thing people want to do is go through a scan machine to go to the…farmers market,” Hanna said.

R Bar Farmers Market ParticipationsLike Carrington, Hanna agreed with the mayor’s decision to suspend the market for two weeks. “I think the mayor is making a right decision, because there is public safety concerns.”

But Hanna doesn’t want to see the suspension go longer than that. “Now as far as terminating the market for the rest of the year, that would be wrong. Because with enough law enforcement the market can go on.”

Hanna said his perception is that the number of visitors to the market is down, not just this year, but last year, too.

The city’s dataset of market “participation” does not show a downward trend through 2017. But the numbers have not yet been updated to include last year’s figures.

“It was a thriving, flourishing market…It’s taken a dip in its popularity,” Hanna said.

Carrington said sales at the Bloomington Saturday market make up about 60 percent of his weekly revenue. He also sells in Indianapolis at the Original City Farmers Market on Wednesday mornings. About 95 of his sales are made at farmers markets, he said.