By Kevin Werner, News Staff
Hamiltonians should expect a new and improved farmer’s market experience beginning the first week in March.
John Hertel, director of enterprise management and revenue generation for the city, said a comprehensive marketing outreach to residents is planned to be introduced March 1 to better inform people about what the farmer’s market offers residents.
“We really need to re-launch the market,” said Hertel.
He said the farmers’ market will use social media, and other options to tell people about the market. In addition, staff is developing a six-month marketing strategy to improve the image of the venue.
Part of that new and improved image of the market will be a four-month validated parking plan that will have 30 spaces dedicated for shoppers at the York Street Parkade. People shopping at the market will receive a validated ticket, easing a constant area of frustration for stallholders about the lack of parking.
The parking program will end June 30. Hertel said staff will review the results and determine parking options.
“It’s one of our challenges,” he said.
In addition, city staff is finalizing the terms of reference to hire a consulting firm to develop a proposed new governance structure for the farmer’s market. The report, which will identify a budget to hire a consultant in February, should be ready by early next month.
Councillors late last year gave stallholders a break by freezing vendor fees for 2014.
Stallholders have complained that the city’s top down structure with councillors and staff imposing ideas with little input from them has produced nothing but problems.
Hertel said since politicians began focusing on improving the farmer’s market issues late last year, the relationship with stallholders have become better, especially after holding one-a-week meetings.
“They are enthusiastic about a (new) structure that will have some independence from city hall,” said Hertel. “They want a board where they can have an active voice, and some independence.”
Other improvements that are being taken include reorganizing the stallholders’ space, examining better signage to replace the $200,000 sign above York Boulevard, examining the ventilation and temperature of the vendor area, and boosting customer service.