Coventry Farmers Market at Nathan Hale Homestead
The Coventry Farmer’s Market operating committee has revised a partnership agreement with the town’s economic development commission to become independent from the town.
Previously, the farmer’s market was an offspring of the town’s economic development commission, with three members of the market’s operating committee reporting to the commission on a monthly basis, Coventry Town Manager John Elsesser said.
The new agreement outlines the responsibilities of the EDC and market committee, enabling the market to operate as its own entity, with occasional services, such as consulting, provided by the town.
Market organizers will continue to report to the EDC, but will not receive any town funding.
Council members approved the agreement by a unanimous vote Monday (May 16).
The annual market features vendors selling handmade and baked goods, generating sales that exceed $350,000 each year.
It is held June through October on Sundays from 11 a.m. to 2 p.m. at the Nathan Hale Homestead on 2299 South St., Coventry.
The eighth season of the wildly popular market begins June 5. The market is held in the wintertime at Coventry High School.
In the past, the town has provided the market with insurance, limited property maintenance and bookkeeping.
Under the new agreement, however, the committee – not the town – will be responsible for its financial and insurance matters.
“We want to be where we are without the town’s support,” said Roberta Wilmot, chairman of the Coventry Regional Farmers Market’s operating committee.
Elsesser said because the market will now be its own entity, the town can’t cover its insurance legally.
EDC Chairman Sondra Astor-Stave said her commission is the “cheering section” for the market.
“We’re so proud our market is considered to be among the best two to three markets in New England,” Astor-Stave said.
Per the market contract, established in July, the market operating committee will pay Connecticut Landmarks $2,500, $1,500 of which is payable on or before May 31st , and the remainder due on the close of the market in October.
Connecticut Landmarks is the non-profit historical agency that owns the Nathan Hale Homestead.
When the market moved to the homestead of the Connecticut Revolutionary War hero, the popularity of the event skyrocketed.
In all, $1,600 of the $2,500 would come from fundraising done by the committee and vendor fees.
Wilmot said the market operating committee was denied its request to become a non-profit organization because state officials didn’t think it was a proper “educational institution.”
Although educational activities are part of the market, it was not recognized as an educational institution because the market’s aim is more to promote local commerce.
Under the new agreement that separates the market from the town, however, market organizers will be able to establish it as a non-profit and be able to apply for certain grants.
These grants, Elsesser said, could cover the few thousand dollars in insurance costs the committee would be responsible for.
“It’s a big step for them,” he said. “It’s a big act of courage.”
Council Chairman Elizabeth Woolf and Council member Steven Hall said the market is well known throughout the state, attracting locals as well as residents from other Connecticut towns and states.
“It puts us on the map,” Hall said.
Council Vice Chairman William Zenko said he has been supportive of the farmer’s market since it first formed.
He said he’s met a lot of “interesting” people at the market.
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