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?
Kay Kissinger Wolf
On behalf of the Tomahawk Girl Scouts