June 23, 2018
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Bangor may see return of a farmers market

By Andrew Neff, BDN Staff

BANGOR, Maine — A joint effort by the Bangor city staff and local farmers to regrow a farmers market in Bangor has taken root, and proponents think — with official City Council approval — it will blossom in June.

“We started meeting in January and actually I’m surprised at the speed things have come together,” said Shirar Patterson, Bangor’s business and economic development officer. “We’ve only met three times. They were all quite long meetings, but the great thing is a lot of these farmers have experience setting up markets. They have a framework, they know how things should work and they have agreements with other municipalities.”

The plan — which calls for an opening noon-3 p.m. Sunday, June 3, at Upper Abbott Square across from the Bangor Public Library — was heartily endorsed by the Bangor City Council’s business and economic development committee last week.

“Before the end of last year, there was a lot of council interest to go forward and generate interest with the farmers and Shirar worked with them on this,” said Councilor and committee member Nelson Durgin, who admitted the Sunday selection surprised him. “They selected the spot and came up with what they think is the best day and time, so it’s basically in their hands.

“There’s a lot of enthusiasm for that and I think a lot of the community will be very supportive.”

Patterson said there’s plenty of evidence of that support already.

“We did an electronic survey for this through Facebook and we had 400 people who said they’d attend the market on Sundays, and 85 percent of those people said they’d come downtown to a market,” Patterson said. “We also had 300 people give us their email addresses because they wanted more information about it as we move forward, so there’s already a great customer base.”

The farmers group considered several locations, including the Waterfront, but Abbott Square was selected for its high visibility, close proximity to businesses and residences and amount of customer parking.

“They’re very intentional about not competing with other markets like Brewer and Orono because in a way they’re competing with themselves,” Patterson said. “There really isn’t any market around here on a Sunday, so they really feel like they can capture a market and fill a niche.”

The last attempt at a Bangor farmers market was almost seven years ago.

“There was a farmers market through the Downtown Bangor Partnership in Pickering Square, but they didn’t set up a lease like this one,” Patterson said.

“The most active markets in recent years are in Brewer and Orono,” Durgin said. “We have tried things in Bangor over the years, like with booths or stands at outdoor events, but not with a lot of participation, so this is good news.”

The group has established the Bangor Farmers’ Market Association and has adopted rules, bylaws and structure for dues and leadership. Thirteen farms have already committed as founding members and wish to enter into a multiple-year agreement with Bangor for use of Abbott Square.

The market may eventually become a year-round effort.

“They haven’t yet determined if it will be year round, but I think at some point it will,” Patterson said.

The business and economic development committee will get a chance to formally approve the plan and agreement Feb. 22. If that happens, the City Council could vote on it as early as Feb. 27.

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