The Richmond Hill Farmers Market will hold its last session of the summer Aug. 29 and may not reopen next year.
Harvey Lashley, director of the city’s park and tree department who also oversees the market, told the Richmond Hill City Council recently that attendance has dropped off to the point that the weekly event is no longer feasible.
“At one point, I counted seven customers and eight vendors today,” he said at Tuesday’s meeting. “If the vendors aren’t making money, it just doesn’t make sense for them to come out.”
The market has run on Tuesday afternoons from April to October at the pavilion in J.F. Gregory Park since 2011. Lashley said in some years the market has operated into November after taking a few weeks off around the Great Ogeechee Seafood Festival.
The city took over operation of the market in 2015, and according to its Facebook page it also shut down operations earlier than expected in 2016. The market had already changed its hours this summer, moving from 2-7 p.m. on Tuesdays at 2-6 p.m. on Tuesdays.
Lashley earlier this year said that was because staff found that very few people visited after 6 p.m. and that vendors had started to pack up and leave around that time.
There were no produce vendors at the last market of July, prompting complaints on its Facebook page.
“I always thought it was odd that there were more vendors selling non-food than those who were,” wrote Stephanie Gendron. “Farmers markets should be for food items, not leggings and jewelry.”
“It really turned into more of a bazaar with crafts and such,” he said. “It’s been difficult to get produce vendors.”
Councilwoman Jan Bass asked if having the market weekly is too often.
City Manager Chris Lovell, however, said that the vendors who do sell produce depend on a regular weekly schedule.
“They do this five, six days a week all over the place, so they want a dependable rotation,” he said.
Lashley said he is hearing from vendors that the drop-off in customers is occurring all over the area, not just here.
“If they aren’t making money, it doesn’t make sense for them to come out,” he said. “If you only have 100 customers in a day, the money they spend can only be spread so much.”
Lovell noted that grocery stores are now carrying a wider array of fresh produce and organic items that used to only be available at farmers markets.
Mayor Harold Fowler said the future of the market “is something that we’ll need to discuss before getting into it next year.”