Sacramento's Midtown Farmers Market has grown dramatically since it first started in 2013. It’s now a year-round event that hosts up to a hundred vendors on any given Saturday morning, spanning two city blocks in the heart of Lavender Heights.
But recently, another aspect of the market also grew: the price farmers pay to sell there — and some vendors say they didn't see it coming.
"That's an insult, it's rude to do that to your vendors," said owner of The Pasta Queen, Susan Korec. She says just before the holidays, the weekly stall-rental fee jumped by nearly 62 percent.
As a result, Korec says sellers are forced to pass those costs on to shoppers. "Since this has happened, I've had quite a few customers say, 'You know, it's kind of expensive to buy organic anyhow, but now that everybody's raising their rates, we're just gonna go back to the Co-op,’" she said.
Emily Baime Michaels heads the Midtown Association, a group of property and business owners who set the rates. She says the fee hike — from $34 to $55 per stall — was not spurred by an increase in regulatory costs, but was necessary to keep up with customer expectations.
“The Midtown Association really prides itself on producing a very high-quality market so that our visitors return and support the vendors that are there and the businesses in the area," Michaels said. "Where we're priced is very reasonable, especially when we compare ourselves to other markets."
Sacramento has a lot of farmers markets for comparison.
The city's largest and busiest market, held on Sundays under Highway 50, pay less than half the rate per stall — just $22. That's also the rate for several other markets.
Dan Best runs the Certified Farmers' Markets of Sacramento County and says the goal is to keep the prices as low as possible to help support local farmers.
Seasonal markets operated in Oak Park and at the UC Davis Med Center charge even less: $15 for a 10-foot by 10-foot stall.
The organization Living Smart runs year-round markets in Folsom, Carmichael, Citrus Heights, and Elk Grove. It also operates a seasonal market at the Mather Field VA. It charges $26 with a for both farmers and permanent prepared food vendors.
A jump of $21 per stall at the Midtown market might not seem like a lot, but vendors note that, when you factor in labor, travel and the low profit margin of farmers, every dollar matters.
Midtown Association’s Michaels said rising costs at her group’s market will go toward improvements this year, including in the area of food demonstrations.
Vendor Susan Korec may change her views when those are revealed, but currently she’s hoping for more at the market.
"There's a lot that they could be doing if they just wanted to even research other farmers markets in the area that are doing similar programs, but this particular market, they're hell bent on making money off of us," Korec said.
CapRadio spoke to two additional vendors, who did not want to go on record, but said they’re paying more to sell at the Midtown market and getting less.
But even if they ended up leaving the market, Michaels said she hears from hundreds of vendors on a regular basis who are hoping to get in.
Note: We've updated the story to clarify that the rates are per week.
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