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Brooklet Farmers Market to reopen following resolution of operational issues

In a packed meeting that underscored the Brooklet community's dedication to its local traditions, the City Council successfully resolved operational issues surrounding the popular Brooklet Farmers Market. Following a temporary pause to address audit concerns and facility rental conflicts, the market is set to reopen this Saturday, June 22, 2024.
Attorney Perkins and Attorney Hunter (standing) provide legal insight to the discussion. Brooklet Police Chief Gary Roberts seated.  Michelle Wilson standing on right.

Brooklet, GA – In an eagerly anticipated meeting that saw standing room only, the Brooklet City Council garnered widespread community support for the continuation of the beloved Brooklet Farmers Market. The meeting, held on Thursday evening, aimed to address concerns raised by the city's auditor regarding the current operational agreement between the city and the Farmers Market.

During the last council meeting, it became evident that the existing arrangement required reevaluation, particularly in terms of how vendor funds were being collected and distributed. Additionally, the city faced conflicts with citizens who had previously rented the facility, creating an urgent need for a more structured and transparent operating agreement.

Michele Wilson, the dedicated operator of the Brooklet Farmers Market, had temporarily paused the market's operations to allow time for a comprehensive resolution that would satisfy all stakeholders. This pause was met with disappointment but understanding from the community, who value the market as a vital part of Brooklet's local culture and economy.

In a display of unity and collaboration, the council and market operators worked diligently to address the auditor's concerns and find a fair solution for those affected by rental conflicts. The discussions culminated in a mutually agreed upon resolution, paving the way for the market's return.

"Tonight's meeting demonstrated the power of community engagement and the importance of transparent governance," said Mayor Nicky Gwinnett. "We are thrilled to announce that the Brooklet Farmers Market will resume operations this Saturday, June 22, 2024."

Michele Wilson expressed her gratitude for the community's patience and support throughout the process. "The Farmers Market is more than just a place to buy and sell goods; it's a cornerstone of our community. We're excited to welcome everyone back this Saturday and continue fostering the vibrant, local spirit that makes Brooklet special."

The return of the Brooklet Farmers Market is eagerly awaited by both vendors and patrons alike. The market, known for its fresh produce, handmade crafts, and lively atmosphere, is expected to draw large crowds eager to support local businesses and reconnect with their neighbors.

For those interested in the detailed discussion from the council meeting, continue reading to view the meeting discussion.

As the Brooklet Farmers Market prepares for its reopening, the community looks forward to a season of growth, unity, and continued success.

The called meeting

Brooklet Mayor Nicky Gwinnett opened the called Brooklet City Council meeting regarding the fate of the Brooklet Farmers Market to order at 6pm on Thursday, June 21, 2024.  He began the discussion with a statement about the City of Brooklet’s stance on the operation of the farmer’s market. 

He stated that the city supports the continuation of the farmer’s market and is pleased with Michelle Wilson’s establishment of an LLC which will enable her to run the market as a separate entity from the city.

Michelle Wilson (right) discusses the farmer's market with City Council. Ainslie Smith

Mayor Gwinnett addressed the issue of the food truck ordinance, which is in the process of being updated to allow for entities to rent parking for events at the Brooklet Peanut Festival grounds.

The primary concern with the operators of the Farmers Market was the issuing of a rental agreement to the Farmers Market operators.  They asked for the rental agreement so that the farmer’s market would be able to take control of the area for the specified three hours each Saturday.

Councilman Keith Roughton commented that several discussions have taken place among the Mayor and Council, and the intention of the meeting is to alleviate issues that have been raised by the city's auditor.

Councilman Bradley Anderson says that the issue is that the city cannot have a “Middleman” (Michelle Wilson) selling smaller plots on the rented area while receiving sponsorship from the city, and the farmers market could not receive a reduced rate as the criteria for such rates requires the entity to be a 501c3 nonprofit organization, school system entity, city employee or governmental entity.

The current rate for rental that the farmer’s market has to pay is $175.

The auditor’s guidance suggests that a recurring event rate could be possible, but councilman Roughton says it is not possible to thoughtfully analyze and define during the meeting and advises that the current rate chart should be followed.

Mayor Gwinnett said the goal of the night was to have a market this coming Saturday and that the rates can be revised even next season, but as the facility is subsidized by taxpayers, fairness is necessary.

Wilson said her two options are to raise the rates for individual vendors or continue pulling money out of her own pocket.

It is important, she said, to make a decision tonight as many of the vendors operate on time sensitive schedules with products like fresh produce, flowers and baked goods spoiling if they are not sold promptly. Further, the farmer’s market season will end in November.

Currently, vendors no longer need a business license to sell their products at the farmer's market, only the appropriate health and food certifications. Wilson and other vendors have made the comment that this helps smaller vendors immensely in being able to take part in the farmer’s market.

Wilson and the council also agreed that it would be fair for farmer's market attendees and vendors to have access to the facility bathrooms, as these are apart of the rented area.

Mayor Gwinnett asked Wilson what rate the market could afford and she replied $125.

Retiring city attorney Hugh Hunter suggested that the city has a right to define and classify recurring events into a separate rate category.

New city attorney Ben Perkins suggested that even a specific farmers market category could be narrowed as would be beneficial to the city.

They encouraged the council to add the item of adopting the new fee to the meeting on June 24, 2024.

A meeting attendee agreed to pay the $50 difference in order to help Wilson and the other vendors. The farmer’s market will continue this weekend at the Newman Pavilion on the Brooklet Peanut Festival grounds on Saturday June 22, 2024 from 2pm to 5pm.

The called meeting was adjourned.