Basalt being sold a bill of goods
When the Basalt Sunday Farmers Market was in its conception stage (months ago), I contacted the organizers to find out more details and, along with many other local vendors, was very disappointed to learn that they were planning on charging $350 per vendor, per season, for a single booth. All in their first, no-track-record of experience season no less.
Numerous e-mails from me and others were met with similar replies that showed the organizers really didn’t have a reason other than, “Aspen and Vail charge more,” and something along the lines of, “what did [we] think was fair … maybe money could be given back,” etc., etc. Basically, a wishful, “fly-by-night” plan at best.
Now this “game plan” (if it could be called that) was based on having 10 to 15 vendors, much like what is already many years in existence in Carbondale on Wednesdays. (FYI: Carbondale charges their vendors $100 … for the whole season … and does just fine with one market manager.)
When I initially e-mailed organizer Kam Davies she stated she “couldn’t tell me the fees/expenses they were going to incur because not all vendors had committed or paid up” by that time. Subsequent e-mails to her went unanswered as the more details and reasoning that was asked for became more important to hide evidently.
But get this, fellow vendors and valley citizens: Now that the organizers have taken in three times (40-plus vendors) the fees, rather than allow anyone outside of Basalt town manager Bill Kane, themselves and a few chosen others, they’re not allowing regular people to look at their income and see how they’re spending it. They now, according to Kane, are invoking being a 501(3)C corporation, and he “only got to look at their books based on confidentiality.” Makes you wonder, doesn’t it?
A plan that initially was expected to gather $3,500 to $5,300 (over twice what Carbondale receives and uses just fine) is now taking in around $14,000! My, my … what to do with all that (unforeseen) money!
Is any part of vendor fees being returned? Are fees being lowered? No. But guess what is being done with the money? The organizers are paying more “managers” (nothing like creating jobs so you can be paid from a nonprofit), paying a local Basalt website provider: Blue Tent Marketing. (Who’s ever heard of going to a website for a farmers market?) And best yet, they’re paying the musicians to come play!
Who decided what musicians or bands will play? Does this mean a struggling musician should take precedent over some other musician? How about Basalt bands vs. folks from Rifle? Why should the market organizers “subsidize” anyone at all? A musician is “selling something” also … themselves … and should be putting out a hat if they want to make money (like at Carbondale’s market). Why should one group of vendors be (over)charged and other “vendors” get paid to be there?
Basically what you have … in the Basalt Sunday Market … is a good idea gone amuck because the organizers put the cart in front of the horse. Rather than see how many people signed up, get their seasoned input, and see what expenses should be engaged, they set about charging fees based on the two most ridiculously overpriced venues in the region … and then decided how to spend the OPM (other people’s money).
Don’t get me wrong … I love farmers markets and have been involved with them for almost two decades, and have many musician-band friends. But sadly, in going this route, the Basalt market organizers have excluded many people who would have liked to have sold there but couldn’t afford it. And in contrast, many of the so-called “vendors” who did pay up aren’t small, farmers-market-type businesses at all, nor truly local in their origination.
In this economy especially, more effort should have been made to research the plan and not just charge folks based on thinking that “anything less than Aspen and Vail is a deal.” Money does not make a successful market, nor advertising, nor mix of vendors, nor excessive managers.
What makes a market successful are vendors who are happy to get the best deal, whereupon they pass along the best prices and please the buying public, not to be forced (if you want to sell) to go along with it.
This season should be completely rethought and a true Farmers Market should emerge … not this “cutesy, aren’t we having fun” agenda that misses many.
Roaring Fork Valley
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