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Farmer’s Market vs. Youth enterprise

Posted: Tue Jul 09, 2013 12:34 pm
by Tomahawk Leader
This Letter to the Editor was published in the July 9, 2013, Tomahawk Leader:

First, I would like to clarify that this letter is not to reflect on the Tuesday, Downtown Main Street Farmers Market, but is reflective of issues that have occurred with the “new” Tomahawk Famers Market held on Thursdays at Washington Park.

Since 1980, there has been a flea market held during the summer months on Thursdays at Washington Park. Lee Hamlin originally began the event out of the portable school on the corner of Fifth and Lincoln as a fundraiser for the Tomahawk Youth Center. Over the years, profits from the flea market have supported the Youth Center, Tomahawk Together and Kinship.

In 2001, Lee turned the flea market venture over to the Tomahawk Area Girl Scouts. Profits supported local activities for Girl Scouts and in 2003 an older Tomahawk Girl Scout troop took over the Flea Market and added a lunch concession for the vendors and shoppers. The older Girl Scouts have operated the Flea Market since 2003, developing business, social, financial and leadership skills, paid their way to Girl Scout camps, and prepared for major trips to Switzerland, New Zealand and California, until this summer.
During 2011, two of the farmers, (2 local women named) began to request changes to the market participants, advertising, and procedures; they were not content with the well-established practices that had been in place and had made the market successful for many years. The farmers became more vocal about their dissatisfaction during the 2012 flea market season, objecting to paying the $7 weekly fee, demanding more advertising, which Girl Scouts provided and paid for; the Girl Scouts decided to keep the flea market procedures and policies the same for the 2013 season. In February, 2013, two of the dissatisfied farmers circumvented the Girl Scouts’ well established Flea Market and obtained a permit from the city for a “weekly farmers’ market in the basketball court area of Washington Park” “Every Thursday June through October, 7 a.m.-2 p.m.” Since Memorial Day, the farmers are selling their wares in Washington Park, according to their permit, and allowing flea market vendors to use space wherever they choose in the park. This past week, (June 27, 2013), the “Farmers Market” was more of a Flea Market, including a food vendor. This group of disgruntled farmers has created a disorganized eyesore in Washington Square Park every Thursday that has greatly affected the local Girl Scouts.

The Farmers Market that has taken over Washington Square Park is a for-profit venture. They do not pay the city for the privilege of making a profit selling their wares in a public place. They do not contribute any of their earnings to the community. This group has effectively erected a temporary store-front with no guidelines or structure. The Girl Scouts have lost a major fund-raising activity because of this group of farmers who continue to allow anyone they approve of to sell whatever they please on Thursday at the park.

The $7 per vendor per week fee helped support Girl Scout activities in the community. Our girls give back in so many ways; creating and maintaining the Riverwalk project for the past 8 years, creating and maintaining the butterfly garden at Golden Living Center/Golden Age, sweeping the downtown streets after the 4th of July parade, collecting cans during Colorama weekend, creating floats for the Christmas Parade, decorating the Tomahawk Library Christmas tree each year, baking and delivering fresh apple pies for homebound residents each year for Make a Difference Day, sending financially underprivileged girls to camp and providing funding for older girls to attend Leadership conferences, learn practical living skills, and creating girls of Courage, Confidence and Character, who make the world a better place. Do the farmers do any of these things in our community?

Consider that there are seven days in a week, these farmers decided to take over a well-established youth activity in order to benefit themselves. They could have easily held their Farmer’s Market on Monday, Wednesday or Friday and not interfere with youth entrepreneurship. What message does this send to our youth?

Betty McCluskey,
Kay Kissinger Wolf
On behalf of the Tomahawk Girl Scouts

Re: Farmer’s Market vs. Youth enterprise

Posted: Wed Jul 17, 2013 8:54 am
by Tomahawk Leader
A Letter to the Editor published in the July 16, 2013, Tomahawk Leader:

We have been an asset

I have always had a great respect for Girl Scouts and the community projects they have been involved with. I was a Girl Scout a great many years ago. However, that being said, I am angry that the Leaders of our local Girl Scout Troop have misled the public with false statements in their Opinion article July 9. Here are the facts. And, we have written documentation to prove what I am about to say:

When I first moved to Tomahawk in 1993 there was a thriving Flea Market in Washington Park. Over the years since, we have seen the Flea Market become smaller and smaller. We have witnessed that many of the vendors were moving to other locations for greater sales. We came to Washington Park to help build the Flea Market and Farmers Market. And, we have been an asset.

The Girl Scout leaders who wrote the Opinion article said that we, the Farmers Market, are a “Profit Venture.” Don’t you think the Flea Market vendors want to make a profit, too? They want customers as much as we do. Every market in this country is a “for profit” venture for the individuals who participate. Many of us are in retirement years and want to be productive and also, supplement our incomes. No, we do not pay the city for the privilege of being there. We haven’t been asked to. We’ve been paying the Girl Scouts, expecting to receive good publicity on radio and in the newspaper, so that we all have customers.

It’s the City of Tomahawk that provides the soap and toilet paper in the washrooms and keeps the park sparkling for all who visit – not the Girl Scouts. We’ve paid $7 weekly for each booth and have received nothing in return. They think writing a paragraph or submitting an occasional news release is advertising. Not so. It takes paid advertising on both WJJQ and the Tomahawk Leader to bring customers. And we proved it when we started advertising ourselves because the Girl Scouts were not. The Flea Market vendors noticed the difference immediately and said “thank you” – and, were willing to chip in for advertising. We had asked the Girl Scouts leaders to take $1 of the $7 paid weekly to be used for advertising. The Girl Scouts leaders did not agree – that is not Girl Scouts policy – and yet they paid for large ads for three weeks this Spring to announce they were moving to Memorial Park. To my knowledge, not one Flea Market vendor went to Memorial Park.

We also volunteered to help grow the market by contacting non-profit organizations for bake sales and helping with signs. We never got an answer from the Girl Scout leader. We did not chase them out of the park. They made the decision to move. We asked the Parks and Recreation Committee to allow us to occupy the basketball area of Washington Park, which we have used since moving to Washington Park, so that we could afford to do more advertising and bring customers to our market. The Flea Market vendors would have benefited from our advertising as well.

Because we had not heard from the Girl Scouts leaders regarding their intentions and saw the ads in the Leader about Memorial Park, we also had a licensed food vendor join us recently. And, now they are accusing us of being a disgruntled, disorganized eyesore in Washington Park. Shame on them!

Karen Olson, Member
Tomahawk Farmers Market

Re: Farmer’s Market vs. Youth enterprise

Posted: Wed Jul 17, 2013 8:55 am
by Tomahawk Leader
A Letter to the Editor in the July 16, 2013, Tomahawk Leader

We love growing, sharing

Many farmers’ markets operate under the umbrella of a non-profit organization even while the individual vendors attempt to operate for profit. Attempt is the key word because most vendors in these markets are lucky to cover expenses and net some seed money for the following year. Incorporation enables a group of individual vendors to become a single, legal entity, carry group liability insurance and have a single checking account to pay bills, etc. while carrying a set of responsibilities to the state. The Tomahawk Farmers’ Market is a non-stock, non-profit corporation recognized by the state of Wisconsin. Yes, each of the vendors of the Tomahawk Farmers’ Market will work to earn a profit at the end of the year, but the farmers’ market as a whole is non-profit.

I can safely speak for all farmers’ market vendors everywhere when I say that we do what we do because we love growing things and sharing our harvests with others. In many instances what we charge for our produce etc., barely covers our costs and many vendors even donate some of what they grow. We are local residents who pay taxes, shop locally and participate, usually without fanfare, in many civic organizations and events. We even buy local advertising.

The Tomahawk Farmers’ Market was the original farmers’ market previously located at the Senior Center. That market outgrew that location and ultimately joined the Girl Scouts Flea Market in Washington Park in 2010. The park is a beautiful location with ample parking, bathrooms and plenty of area to set up. The Farmers’ Market enjoyed the benefits of vending under a non-profit, while the Girl Scouts doubled their number of vendors and reservation and site fees. It was a win-win situation.

In order to be successful, any market must make it worthwhile for potential customers to stop and shop. By 2011, it became evident that the market as a whole was not growing and even losing some vendors. What was once a park-filled event many years ago was down to a few flea market vendors and a small farmers’ market. The vendors knew that we had to promote the market or watch it die. On more than one occasion, we approached the Girl Scouts and asked them if they would set aside one dollar out of each vendor site fee and apply that toward advertising. On May 16, 2012, Betty McCluskey officially told us that they would not be doing any additional advertising for the year.

Most, if not all of the vendors of the entire market felt that the market needed more exposure than just community calendar spot announcements. The Farmers’ Market vendors then started advertising locally, which also promoted the Girl Scouts food booth at the park, and paid for those ads by passing the hat each Thursday in addition to paying vendor fees. The Girl Scouts did promote one special event at the market that season.

At the close of the 2012 season, Farmers’ Market vendors knew that we had to do something to keep the market as a whole going. We approached the City in January of 2013 and simply asked if we, the Farmers’ Market, could continue to do what we have been doing, at our current location in the park, but not pay the Girl Scouts to do so. In exchange, we would take any of vendor fees collected and apply those toward promotion of the market and expenses of insurance, etc. The City agreed with proof of the arrangement. Shortly thereafter, the Girl Scouts applied and the City granted their move to Memorial Park, which they advertised heavily.

We were not sure how their move would affect the Farmers’ Market at Washington Park, but we had already committed to another season of selling our same diverse mix of produce, canned products, crafts and flea market items. When we encountered previous flea market vendors, and had to explain the situation, we told them they were welcome to join us. If however, they decided to go to Memorial Park instead we understood. I cannot answer for the flea market vendors who chose not to join the Girl Scouts at Memorial Park, but perhaps the Girl Scouts should ask them why they chose to remain at Washington Park.

Diana C. Smith

Re: Farmer’s Market vs. Youth enterprise

Posted: Tue Jul 23, 2013 1:16 pm
by Tomahawk Leader
A letter published in the July 23, 2013, Tomahawk Leader:

Lessons learned
I have never felt the need to do a letter to the editor, but after attending a Park & Rec meeting pertaining to the snafu that is happening between the local Girl Scouts and the new Farmers market, I have to respond. I am not going to touch all that has happened and who is accusing who. My letter is about a comment made at that meeting.

After a presentation by the Girl Scout leader representing the Scout side, the Farmers market people could state their feelings. One statement was made: “What are they teaching these girls – to walk around with their hands out, asking for money?” It was in reference to the $7 fee charged to vendors who display their wares.
Anyway, I want to talk about that.

Dedication: The girls are able to watch and learn from their leader and parents as they juggle work, home and other schedules and see the time dedicated to making all of this work. Tomahawk has been blessed with some awesome youth volunteers, not only in the Girl Scouts, but for the Boy Scouts, Kinship and many others. Their dedication is unbelievable. The youth might not realize it now, but as they mature and become parents themselves, they will remember, and hopefully pay it forward and make a difference by volunteering themselves!

Commitment: The commitment needed and demanded of you to be in charge of something like the Flea Market, week after week, year after year in a very busy summer schedule. It applies to the leaders, girls and families!

Goal Setting: Meetings are held; what do we need, how do we make it work and so on! Why are we doing this? What are we working for? Don’t “we” all need goals to succeed in life? What a way for these kids to learn! With friends, doing community service, and yes, earning money towards a goal of a troop trip, so they can learn more of the world outside of Tomahawk!

Team Work: It is hard to work together and have positive outcomes… (Obviously, as the adults involved have not managed to.) For many years, the girls have worked as a team to make this happen, learning job skills such as time management, vending, sales, people skills and so on. Again the big one, is working together and getting along. They have learned a big lesson on this skill!

Organization: That flea market just didn’t happen. There was a lot of planning and work to have it happen, including planning for our own concession stand every week.

I guess I could go on and on, but I think I did manage to answer that question on what the Girl Scouts teach.
Tomahawk, be proud of your volunteers and our youth who try, and do make a difference.

Thank you,
Charlotte Wyles

Re: Farmer’s Market vs. Youth enterprise

Posted: Tue Jul 23, 2013 1:17 pm
by Tomahawk Leader
A letter in the July 23, 2013, Tomahawk Leader:

No more flea markets this year

An open letter to the Tomahawk Community:

We would like to thank you for your past support of the Washington Square Flea Market that has been hosted by the Tomahawk Area Girl Scouts for the past twelve years. Your generous support has resulted in many positive contributions to the community by the many Girl Scout Troops in the Tomahawk area. We will no longer be hosting the Flea Market on Thursdays at Washington Park for the current year but we will continue to contribute our volunteer efforts in the many ways we always have: maintaining and expanding the Riverwalk and gardens in the Tomahawk Library area, sweeping the streets after the 4th of July parade, parking cars at SARA Park on July 3 for the Craft Show, creating, assembling, and placing the luminaries at Relay for Life, collecting discarded cans at Colorama events, tending the butterfly garden at Golden Living/Golden Age Center, volunteering at the Wisconsin River Pro Rodeo, creating floats for the Tomahawk Christmas Parade, decorating the Christmas tree at the Tomahawk Library, sending greeting cards to our troops overseas, baking apple pies for homebound residents for Make a Difference Day and helping underprivileged girls experience Girl Scout Camp and Girl Scout Events.

While the Washington Square Flea Market was an excellent venue for the Girl Scouts to fund their activities, and this will be a loss to the local Scouts, we are confident that the Tomahawk Community will continue to support our efforts to create girls of Courage, Confidence, and Character, who make the world a better place each and every day.

Betty McCluskey and Kay Kissinger Wolf
Tomahawk Girl Scout Leaders