"We are now taking applications from vendors who want to sell at the market, and we've set Saturday, May 12, from 7 a.m. to 1 p.m., for the Grand Opening," Mike Yates, the Chairman of the Farmer's Market Committee told The News.
At a recent meeting with Mayor Gary Clayton, Salem Police Chief Al Roork and County Judge Charles Willett, a final decision was made as to where the market would be held.
The preference of the committee was the courthouse area on the Salem square. There was some concern, however, that there could be danger to shoppers, since vendors would be setting up on streets open to through traffic.
According to Yates, Mayor Clayton proposed closing Pickren Street from Church Street to Locust Street for the six hour period on Saturday the market will operate. Pickren Street is the western boundary of the square, where the library is located. It is the least traveled of the streets around the courthouse, and businesses on Pickren Street are not open on Saturdays.
"The Mayor said we could run tape to block off the street (Pickren Street only), so that vendors can set up in front of the courthouse, and people can walk in the street to do their shopping," Yates said. "I think it's a great location. So many people remember when the square was packed with shoppers every Saturday. It's a natural community gathering spot."
"The committee has been working hard on finishing the by-laws and planning for a May opening," County Extension Agent Brad Runsick said. "Now the main thing we need is to sign up vendors, so that people will have plenty of choices when they come to shop."
People who have worked to establish a farmer's market have expressed hope they could keep things simple, with as little red tape as possible -- and it appears that goal has been met.
The vendors application consists of only six lines of information -- name, address, telephone/e-mail, farm or garden name, names of "helpers" who may assist the vendor and the primary items that will be offered for sale.
The applicant is asked to acknowledge that he or she has received and reviewed a copy of the Salem Farmers Market By-Laws.
The applicant agrees to observe regulations set by the state health department, and collect sales tax, if a product being sold requires that collection be made.
In general, there is no sales tax on farmer's market produce, but crafts and other retail merchandise require sales tax collection.
Vendors are asked to display a sign at their booth stating where produce they are selling was grown, and if they are a reseller -- someone who buys wholesale produce and resells it, rather than growing their own.
Unlike many farmer's markets, vendors will not have to pay a fee to set up and sell at the Salem Farmer's Market.
The sale of craft items will be allowed, if they are made by craftsmen in the region.
The by-laws prohibit pets, smoking or alcohol use in the market area.
Vendor applications are available at the County Extension office in the Federal Building on Locust Street. Vendors will also be allowed to register on opening day.
"I can't remember there ever being an organized farmer's market around here, like they are planning," Mayor Clayton said. "It may take a while to build up traffic, but I think it will be good for the city."
On Saturdays, when the market is open, only registered vendors will be able to sell products on the square. On other days, however, there will be no restrictions on selling produce on the square.
Three local companies -- North Arkansas Electric, the Bank of Salem and the First National Banking Company -- are paying for signs to be posted to alert people when he farmer's market is open.
"We have had great support so far," said Runsick. "People have been very pro-farmer's market, so we've made a lot of progress very quickly."
Runsick said the Extension Service took the initiative to schedule the first meeting to discuss establishing a farmer's market because community development, including economic development, is part of its mission.
After the first meeting, interested citizens have been in charge of planning and decision making.
"It's happening," said Yates. "The Mayor and County Judge have been very cooperative. They believe a farmer's market will help vendors make some money, and bringing people together each week will foster a sense of community."