Alabama's Farmers Markets are closing - Montgomery Alabama news.

Alabama's Farmers Markets are closing

Posted by Bryan Henry  -  bio | email

MONTGOMERY, AL (WSFA) -The emotions at the two Farmers Markets, one next to Garrett Coliseum and the other on Fairview Avenue, are ripe with frustrations, shock and for Linda Stanchio, anger.

"These farmers depend on us," Stanchio said.

Livid over the fact the Alabama Department of Agriculture plans to close the two markets in less than a week.

Stanchio tells WSFA 12 News she spends hundreds of dollars a year on fresh produce, driving 30 miles from her home in Wetumpka for the trip.

The ag commissioner himself was reportedly in north Alabama today visiting farmers. Deputy Commissioner and Chief of Staff Rick Oates says this was not an easy decision but one that must be carried out.

"We are very sorry but we are dealing with budget issues," said Oates.

Department leaders say the state has been losing $150,000 a year for 3 years and Governor Robert Bentley is expected to slice about $2 million from the department budget.

"We are facing proration and it really comes down to a budget issue," said Oates.

The two Farmers Markets will close March 1 but we're told those closures may not be permanent. Still, this is a bitter taste for a lot of people.

 Jean Wright has been vendor at the Coliseum Drive location for years. Wright says there has not been a drop in customers and doesn't understand why the markets are closing.

"This is very disappointing. Business has been very good here,' Wright said.

The only money the Department of Agriculture receives from vendors is the monthly rental fee. It's either $10 a day or $100.00 per month.

Stanchio believes the commissioner could start saving money by cutting his own salary which is around $79,000 a year.

Oates disagrees.

"He makes fair market value as well as the other people in this department. You have to remember we are primarily a food regulatory agency," said Oates.

To clear up any potential confusion the state only owns two Farmers Markets in the city. The Curb Market in downtown Montgomery is not owned by the state and unrelated to the impending closings.

The other farmers markets will remain open as well. 

They are on Taylor Road.. Eastchase and Hampstead.

The Ag Department says the 4 state employees who work at the two Farmers Markets will be reassigned to other duties within the department.

Copyright  2011 WSFA 12 News.   All rights reserved.



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