Q&A about the 2017 Market season

We are planning the 2017 Belmont Farmers’ Market season. We have a great group of new and returning vendors signed up for our 12th year and can’t wait to tell you about them all.

As we do every year, we asked the Board of Selectmen for permission to hold the Market in the Belmont Center parking lot. The landlord of the building that will house Foodie’s and Belmont Books spoke against the Market; he said the Market would compete with Foodie’s and uses too many parking spaces. For details, see articles in The Belmont Citizen-Herald and The Belmontonian, discussion on the Citizen-Herald Facebook page, and video of the Selectmen’s meeting (starting at 159 minutes).

Thanks to your support, the Selectmen voted on April 3, 2017, to approve our request to have the Market in the parking lot again this year.

Letters supporting the Market

Letters to the Selectmen

Support from merchants

The Citizen-Herald wrote this shortly after the Selectmen’s meeting on Monday:

Victor Leon, owner of Foodie’s said he has no issue with the Belmont Farmers’ Market staying in its current location. “We are thrilled to hear Belmont has a farmers’ market and contrary to what our landlord’s statements seemed to imply, we have no issue with sharing a parking lot with them. In fact we feel their presence will help to draw more people to the center,’ said Leon.”

Belmont Books tweeted their support a number of times:
Another tweet from Belmont Books showing support

Our answers to the comments that came up at the Selectmen’s meeting

Q: What does the Belmont Farmers’ Market offer to Belmont?
People shop at the Market for fresh and local food, but it’s more than that. The Market creates a sense of community, as our shoppers and vendors tell us.

The Market supports the food assistance work of our parent organization, the Belmont Food Collaborative. We help the Belmont Food Pantry by donating produce we grow. We also underwrite deliveries of fresh food to the Pantry; in 2016 this amounted to over 9,000 lbs. We match SNAP benefits (formerly known as food stamps) and WIC/Senior FMNP coupons at the Market; in 2016, we provided $2,700 to those in need for fresh, healthy food.

One of our shoppers said this: I especially appreciate being able to use our food stamps, making these go further on fresh healthy food!

Our Community Table hosted these organizations last year: Belmont Public Library popup library (monthly), Belmont Light, Rep. Dave Rogers, Sen. Will Brownsberger, Belmont Council on Aging, Belmont Food Pantry, League of Women Voters voter registration, various kids’ programs, Belmont School Committee, Belmont’s Recycling coordinator.

The Events Tent hosts a weekly Storytime (sponsored by the Library), music, art. Performers include students from Belmont Public Schools and Belmont’s Powers Music School.

Storytime draws big crowds of kids every week (and their parents!)

Storytime draws a big crowd of kids each week (and their parents!)

In 2015, we asked shoppers (and their kids) what they like about the Market:
A child wrote: I like the yummy food! It's healthy and delicious!Comment card: Seeing friends and neighbors

Q: Are there other locations for the Belmont Farmers’ Market?
No. The Market is in the parking lot because the Town suggested it after we reviewed all of the other locations in town.

Before we opened the Market, we looked at all of the available locations in town. We cannot use school properties because it would interfere with classes and activities. We cannot use churches or the temple because of potential conflicts with holidays and other celebrations. The proposed spaces near the library and the pool are too small for our needs. We’ve considered the space in front of Belmont Savings Bank, too, but it’s small, not level and surrounded by busy streets.

Market scene showing produce and shoppers

A typical day at the Market

Q: Can we change the time or date of the Market now?
No. We’re just 10 weeks from opening day and we have scheduled our vendors. They have made plans with suppliers and employees, and scheduled other markets on other days. After 11 years, our vendors count on being in Belmont on Thursday afternoons.

Q: Do people shop in the Center on Market days?
Yes! In our most recent survey, shoppers told us that they do patronize Belmont Center stores. We know from our own shopping that it’s better to load up at the Market after shopping in the stores, so it may not be apparent to the merchants.

Q: How much space does the Market use in the Belmont Center lot?
We use just 19 spaces out of 200+ spaces in the back of the parking lot (the red outline at the bottom right). We will only be open on 21 Thursdays  in 2017.

Map of the parking lot showing the 19 spaces the Market uses out of 200+

The Market uses just 19 spaces at the back of the parking lot (red outline)

Q: Does the Belmont Farmers’ Market compete with Foodie’s or other stores?
The Belmont Food Collaborative (parent organization of the Market) is a member of the Belmont Center Business Association. We work hard to complement the offerings in the Center.

We promote local restaurants and food stores, providing space for them to offer samples to our shoppers. In the last two years, that has included Patou Thai, Praliné, La Posada, Savinos, Art’s Specialties, Bellmont Caffe, Stone Hearth Pizza, Yum Bunnies Cakery, The Loading Dock, Phinix Grill, Spoodles Soup Factory, Vintage Tea & Cake Co., and Tony G’s Barbeque.

We don’t believe that we’re competing with Foodie’s, which was a complaint at the Selectmen’s meeting. The Market will be open for only 91 hours in 2017 (that’s 21 Thursday afternoons). Based on one of their other stores’ hours, Foodies will be open 4100+ hours.

Our missions are very similar. See if you can guess which mission statement is ours and which is Foodie’s. “Provide fresh, local items directly from local farmers and producers” and “Fresh local foods that we buy from New England vendors.”

Q: What can I do to help?
Call (617. 993.2610) or write to the Board of Selectmen and tell them how you think the Belmont Farmers’ Market adds to the sense of community in Belmont. If you shop at other stores in the Center on Market days, tell them about that, too. Note that all email to the Selectmen is considered part of the public record.

Shopper comment card: BFM is the best thing that ever happened in Belmont!