Is two markets too many?

Tuesday market organizer says attendance has plummeted

Organizers of one of the longest running farmers markets in the area are saying during a time of buy local consciousness, a declining customer base is threatening its survival"and that a new batch of markets is the reason.

The Delmar Market, which has run on Tuesday afternoons in the parking lot of the First United Methodist Church since 1990, is organized by the Regional Farmers Market Association, which also run a market in downtown Albany. President Annette Van Auken said dropping attendance is forcing some of the smaller vendors to forgo coming to the market.

"Several of the growers have"not formally dropped out, but they're sort of sitting on the sidelines right now hoping that the market can be revived," she said.

Van Auken said the association does not keep attendance figures or sales receipts, but estimated customer numbers have dropped by as much as 70 percent from levels a few years ago, and roughly half the vendors have bowed out. Many of the bigger sellers remain, she said.

"The market is fighting for its survival, and may not survive," Van Auken said.

While last year's market season saw consistent rain, which also affected crops, things have failed to pick up this season. Van Auken said she feels the new, Saturday farmers market held just down the road is sapping shoppers.

"The only thing we know is what customers are telling us, is that it's more convenient to go on Saturdays," she said.

One of the larger sellers remaining is Richard Rugen, a co-owner of Hope Valley Farm in Hamilton County. He said the Tuesday market has been a regular destination for his flowers and vegetables for the past 15 years or so, but in the past two years his sales have taken a dive.

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