There has been discussion in recent days about changes to the Downtown Evanston Farmers’ Market for 2016.  The market is a program of the City of Evanston’s Parks, Recreation and Community Services Department. Specifically, a rule change was being implemented to exclude non-Evanston bakers from the market beginning this year.     

This change was agreed to internally by City staff in Summer 2015 to be implemented in 2016 based on complaints from some Evanston-based bakeries that there were too many out-of-town bakers represented at the market. Upon inquiry, I learned this change in rule was not shared in a timely basis by City staff with the bakers or the Friends of the Evanston Farmers’ Market. Bakers had already applied for the 2016 market and would have no ability to make other arrangements for the 2016 season when many learned of this change.

Evanston Parks, Recreation and Community Services Director Lawrence Hemingway has worked with the bakers and the Friends to rescind this rule change for 2016. The 2016 market will have nine bakers included as vendors.  Section 3-22-7 of the Evanston City Code allows bread as the only baked good to be sold at the market despite the fact that other baked goods have been regularly sold by bakers at the market.

The growth of the Downtown Evanston Farmers’ Market is a great amenity for our residents, visitors and neighbors from surrounding communities. The market has grown and diversified over the years at the urging of all. It includes a wide variety of commodities, but in reality is no longer a farmers’ market. 

The City of Evanston is now operating a community market retailing many products. In addition to the traditional farmer vendors, what else should make up the market? Should all vendors of all types be welcome? Should there be limits to the number of vendors selling the same products? Should Evanston businesses with bricks and mortar stores (which carry all the costs of doing business in our community year-round) be given special standing at the market? Do the current restrictions on items sold at the market make sense? Clearly the sale of baked goods other than breads is against the “rules” but wanted by the public. City staff has been reluctant to be the “pastry and pie police.”

I have asked Mr. Hemingway to work with all interested parties during the Spring/Summer of 2016 to address these issues and propose to the Evanston City Council amendments to City Code on the regulation of the market no later than Nov. 1. It is my goal that the market reflect the needs and standards of the community into the future and that rules be established that are fair to all concerned.