Downtown WF Development to take over farmers market

The Farmers Market Association president said that he was caught off guard when he found out Friday morning.
Published: Jul. 22, 2022 at 6:30 PM CDT
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WICHITA FALLS, Texas (KAUZ) - Downtown Wichita Falls Development has chosen to not renew the lease with the Farmers Market Association and plans to keep it going under their own management.

The president of the association said that he was caught off guard when he found out Friday morning. He said he had no clue Downtown Development was planning to move in this direction and that they have actually been in contact this week with plans to sit down and talk next week, but now he is preparing to move to another location.

“There was no indication,” Scott Poenitzsch, Farmers Market Association president, said.

Poenitzsch thought discussions were moving in the right direction regarding a new lease agreement, but they found out Friday morning that Downtown Development will be taking over managing the farmers market.

“This morning, my phone lit up a little bit with people calling me and saying have you seen the post from Downtown Development,” Poenitszch said. “I had not so I went and looked at it and I was actually pretty surprised that they have put everything out there. In essence, they are not willing to move forward with the Farmers Market Association in negotiations and have issued an eviction notice.”

“Since January, it has become apparent from our negotiations with all the parties involved that there is convictions and a lack of the ability to compromise on key items that have to do with this lease,” Becky Raeke, Downtown Wichita Falls Development interim president, said.

Downtown Development said this decision was made for the vendors. They didn’t believe it was right for the association to try and raise stall or booth fees to accommodate the cost that was in the proposed lease agreement.

“The farmers market needs to be accessible,” Raeke said. “You can’t price people out, you can’t price vendors out so going up from $20 or $25 a stall fee to $60 or $80 kind of undermines the purpose of what the farmers market is really all about.”

But one vendor is skeptical on if Downtown Development will be able to save vendors money.

“I am here as an owner and a vendor to refute that Downtown Development management of the market will somehow save farmers and vendors money,” Carol Castro, vendor at the farmers market, said.

She said any vendor that is a member of the association gets a $5 discount on their stall or booth fee, which adds up when you’re there every Saturday.

“I spent $2,640 total under Wichita Falls Farmer Market Association,” Castro said. “Under Downtown Development, if they were in fact to take back management, I would pay $3,300 a year, which is $660 more than I pay under the association.”

The Farmers Market Association said they don’t want things to end like this. They are open to discussion with Downtown Development, but are also prepared to move locations.

“We have found up to 10 different locations, both in the city area as well as in the immediate county area, some very generous offers to pick up and move the farmers market to those locations,” Poenitzsch said.

Poenitzsch said he believes this will affect downtown businesses because of the amount of vendors that will follow the association wherever they go.

“We are very disappointed it is going to end up this way,” Poenitzsch said. “I have had a lot of downtown local businesses reach out to me saying this is going to be devastating to their business because the general feeling is that everyone of the Farmers Market Association members will probably relocate wherever we find our new home.”

There are 127 members of the association and 34 non-members that are vendors. The farmers market isn’t closing, but Downtown Development will be taking over management starting Aug. 20.

They said no matter how many vendors choose to stay or choose to leave, Downtown Development is prepared to meet the cost the city is asking for without raising the price of their stall or booth fees.

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