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Hillsborough farmer’s market plan delayed

By Susan Dickson
Staff Writer

The Board of County Commissioners on Tuesday postponed a decision regarding who would administer the farmers’ market at the county’s new Public Market House, set to open in Hillsborough in March.
Commissioners expressed aversion at being forced to choose between two groups, and prior to public comment Chair Barry Jacobs asked individuals to refrain from name-calling and personal attacks.
In August, two opposing groups appealed to the board for control of the Hillsborough Farmers’ Market. Jeffry Goodrum, speaking on behalf of 13 vendors, asked commissioners to recognize his group as the official Hillsborough Farmers’ Market board of directors. Beverly Blythe, the market’s founder and co-manager, said most vendors opposed the takeover by the group.
Tuesday’s meeting was standing-room-only, with the two groups filling opposite sides of the F. Gordon Battle Courtroom.
Over the past several months, the county attempted to mediate between the two groups in order to form one board of directors to run the market at the Public Market House, but efforts were unsuccessful.
Last week, Goodrum’s group announced that they had officially incorporated as the Farmers of Orange and would run a farmers’ market, regardless of whether they were able to use the county’s space.
The county’s new Public Market House is located behind the county sheriff’s office on East Margaret Lane in Hillsborough. The Hillsborough Farmers’ Market has previously been held in the SunTrust Bank parking lot in downtown Hillsborough.
Following the mediation efforts, County Manager Laura Blackmon recommended that the county operate the market and hire a manager outside of the market’s vendors, so that they did not have to choose between the two groups.
However, several commissioners said they were hesitant about the county operating the market, citing concerns about spending tax dollars to fund management or mediating vendor disagreements.
“This board never intended to have any operating interest in this facility other than to make it available to the community,” Jacobs said.
“This has been a sad spectacle,” he continued. “There’s been a notable lack of charity.
“As someone who’s been going [to the market] for years … I hate what I’ve heard and seen over the last few months.”
Commissioner Moses Carey said he did not support the county operating the market. However, he added: “We may be forced to do something we don’t want to do.”
Carey said that if necessary, the county could manage the market temporarily so that vendors could begin selling on March 1, as previously planned.
“Just about everybody I talked to, when I questioned them [about the market], they had a vision of vibrancy for the market,” he said. “It’s hard to understand how people can be divided when they really want the same thing.”
Several vendors spoke in support of Blythe, citing her efforts to build the market.
Blythe asked that the commissioners “not add another level of bureaucracy” by managing the market through the county.
“The vendors and citizens have waited so long [for the market house] and we just can’t believe that the day is here,” Blythe said. “We are ready to move forward.”
The commissioners said they will make a decision regarding who will administer the farmers’ market at the Public Market House on Feb. 5.

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