The Sackville Farmers Market renewed its call Monday for help in building a permanent, indoor location, but once again met with a lukewarm response from town council.
“The market feels…that the lack of a permanent location is our most significant hurdle to growing the market and providing consistent service to customers and vendors,” Kent Coates, chair of the market’s board told council.
He repeated the call he made a year ago for a 7,000 sq. ft., town-owned building that would cost just over $1 million. The town would lease it to the Farmers Market which would be responsible for operating costs and day-to-day management.
Coates said the building could house the market as well as community organizations like the food bank, local theatres and recreation groups such as yoga and dance as well as music festivals and concerts.
“What we’re really asking is to have a commitment to have a Working Group stand up to make this happen,” Coates said, adding that as a non-profit organization, the market could raise money from the community as well as various other sources such as the Atlantic Canada Opportunities Agency and the New Brunswick government.
When Councillor Andrew Black asked where a permanent building would be located, Coates said it could be at two possible downtown sites: in the area around the tennis courts adjacent to Bill Johnstone Memorial Park or on the Gordon Beal-owned property next to the Painted Pony restaurant at Bridge Street and Weldon.
Councillor Bill Evans said that while he understands the importance of the Farmers Market to the quality of life in Sackville, the town would need to take on a capital project on a scale similar to the Civic Centre.
“I’m saying yes with my heart,” Evans said, “but my head is saying we have to be practical and reasonable here.”
He then asked about what he called “the elephant in the room” — the proposal council heard last month from Garth Zwicker for a market on land leased from the town beside the Visitor Information Centre on Mallard Drive.
Coates replied that, although he didn’t know all the details of the Zwicker proposal, it seemed to be only about creating one job and building a facility without any long-term plan.
He said that the current Farmer’s Market has been operating for decades.
“We’re in this for the long haul and we will operate the market,” he added.
“We’re not going to create a space that in two or three years when things change, is going to be empty.”