Even though it moved to its new location just this year, the Knightdale Farmers Market is already looking at another move at the end of the summer, across Knightdale Station Park to an amphitheater-like structure under construction.
The market’s new home will be in a shelter that is part of a pair that are 12,000-plus square feet.
But the structure will likely look a little empty as new regulations for farmers market vendors may have pushed some vendors away from the market circuit.
Parks and Recreation Director Tina Cheek said she knows some vendors have run into problems under requirements that they register with the state. However, she said, it will still be worth it to move the market to the new structure, regardless of how many vendors are able to complete their paperwork and participate.
“We’d love for it to fill up,” Cheek said.
The two shelters cost the town about $600,000. Shelter A, the larger of the two, cost $335,000 and Shelter B was $265,000.
New regulations specify that managers of “specialty markets,” those that have vendors other than produce sellers, must keep a daily list of each vendor on the site.
The list must include each vendor’s name, permanent address and certificate of registration number from the state revenue department. In Knightdale, vendors must apply for and receive the registration before participating in the market.
The certificate must be visible at each vendor’s booth. Under the law, the market manager must assume responsibility for compliance.
This summer, Knightdale’s market has had between 10 and 15 vendors each week. Cheek said there would be plenty of extra space in the new amphitheater area, which will allow the town freedom in how to arrange vendors.
Knightdale’s recreation activities coordinator, Chris Roland, manages the market and lets vendors know about the necessary registration.
Even so, Cheek said, some vendors choose to walk away from participating in the market.
“It probably turned some vendors away that they had to register with the state at all,” she said. “It may have been more trouble than what they felt it was worth.”
Process is easy part for vendors
Vendors say the process, once begun, is not as difficult as it may seem.
Tina Stalnaker is a first-time vendor, selling homemade bows and hair accessories. She called it nervewracking to file such official papers for income she brings in on the side.
“I guess the whole process of having to be in charge of its being a legal business is kind of scary,” she said.
Joni McPhetridge, who operates a farm in Zebulon and participates in Knightdale’s market, thinks the new regulations are ridiculous, but that the process itself was not difficult.
“I just feel like it hurts the small farmer,” she said of her dislike for the regulations.
Items sold at farmers markets previously were considered tax-exempt. The new regulations established that any item other than fresh produce is subject to state sales tax.
McPhetridge sells canned goods from produce on her farm as well as homemade soaps and detergent. She’s participated in different markets over the past four years.
Even though all her ingredients come from her farm, she has to register with the state because the items are not in their original form.
“Even if it has 100 percent of my homegrown products in it, I still have to pay taxes on it,” she said.
Vendors must file taxes quarterly, with the next quarterly deadline coming up at the end of July. At that time, they pay sales tax in a lump sum.
Vendors who sell prepared food, which has been cooked or mixed like McPhetridge’s canned goods, pay a 4.75 percent tax rate.
Markets ‘got caught in this’
Knightdale’s market, like many in the area, features more than just produce. It allows vendors to sell baked goods, homemade goods and other items.
That’s where the new regulations come in, said Appalachian Sustainable Agriculture Project (ASAP) Executive Director Charlie Jackson.
ASAP, based in Asheville, is an advocacy group for the local food movement, which includes farmers markets.
“The farmers markets were not the target of this, they kind of got caught in this,” Jackson said. Jackson has spent time with legislators trying to convince them to change the regulations and said that the purpose of the new law was really to target large, for-profit markets (such as flea markets), not smaller efforts.
The law, Jackson said, puts unnecessary burden on market managers, who in many cases are volunteers.
“We were hearing that market managers were stepping down,” Jackson said. “It’s a complicated thing to understand. They might get in trouble and they didn’t want to get in trouble.”
Market veteran Rosetta May suggested providing a class to guide vendors through the process. Jackson pointed out that market managers are often volunteers and may not have the resources to offer that kind of guidance, though.
In Knightdale, Roland is a full-time staff employee, organizing other parks and rec activities, including track-out camps for kids.
Jackson said things are looking up for smaller markets.
He’s optimistic about a bill before the General Assembly that seeks to remove regulations for different types of businesses, including those on specialty markets.