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Hampstead discusses adding Main Street manager to be involved with farmers market, businesses, Hampstead Day

A 2014 photo shows longtime Hampstead Farmers’ Market vendors Wike’s Family Farm. The town is considering a staff position that could include management of the Farmer's Market.
A 2014 photo shows longtime Hampstead Farmers’ Market vendors Wike’s Family Farm. The town is considering a staff position that could include management of the Farmer's Market.(Unknown/Advocate of Hampstead)

The town of Hampstead is considering adding a new position to boost Main Street by managing the Hampstead Farmers’ Market — the largest in Carroll County — working with local businesses, and bolstering events like Hampstead Day.

Hampstead’s town council discussed the possibility of finding a Main Street manager at its most recent meeting, Jan. 14, though no formal action was takent. A new hire would likely have to start after the new financial year begins July 1.

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The discussion began with the Hampstead Farmers’ Market because longtime managers Marlene Duff and Sharon Callahan announced their retirement at the conclusion of the 2019 season. The pair started the market in 2010 and it has grown to include 30 vendors and more than 2,000 customers per day in the 2019 season.

According to a news release from the town: “Both Sharon and Marlene agree that this has been an extremely difficult decision, and one they have anguished over for the past two years. Vince Lombardi once stated, ‘The harder you work, the harder it is to surrender.’ However, ‘It’s time,’ Sharon said, ‘to turn the management and operation of the Hampstead Farmers’ Market over to new leaders, hopefully younger leaders, who will maintain the spirit, vision and consistency that have become hallmark traits of the Market. We ‘birthed’ the Market in 2010, saw it through growing pains and challenges, and now it is a thriving, exciting and energetic adolescent!’”

The Hampstead Farmers’ Market closed its 10th season with a record number of visitors, 35,229, and received a special citation and proclamation from Maryland Gov. Larry Hogan’s office and a proclamation from the Town of Hampstead. Pictured, from left, are Manager Marlene Duff, Hampstead Mayor Christopher Nevin and Manager Sharon Callahan. Duff and Callahan are retiring after running the farmers market for the past 10 years.
The Hampstead Farmers’ Market closed its 10th season with a record number of visitors, 35,229, and received a special citation and proclamation from Maryland Gov. Larry Hogan’s office and a proclamation from the Town of Hampstead. Pictured, from left, are Manager Marlene Duff, Hampstead Mayor Christopher Nevin and Manager Sharon Callahan. Duff and Callahan are retiring after running the farmers market for the past 10 years. (Courtesy photo)

But finding a successor has been challenging. Keith Johnson, who serves as the head of the farmers market advisory committee has stepped up as acting manager. Duff, who is a council member called him “volunteer extraordinaire," but said no other volunteers have come forward.

"We’ve gotten zero response and I think that’s the problem, because it says volunteer. Nobody wants to do something for nothing,” Duff said at the meeting.

The council discussed the possibility that they’ll have to pay someone to do it. This opened up possibilities for other ways a manager might benefit the whole town.

Councilman Joseph Renehan said he would like to see a Main Street manager involved in small business as well as town festivals. There are aspects of business in the town “that are falling down, that we’ve lost our grasp on.”

One thing that was quickly mentioned was Hampstead Day, the annual festival which has been held in Arcadia for several years. In 2011, Hampstead Day was the third-largest gathering in Carroll County, he said, but it isn’t any longer.

“It should be on Main Street, it should be in Hampstead, it should be where it was,” he said. Between town festivals, the farmers market and staying on top of programs to help downtown business, a Main Street manager could find a lot to do, he said.

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Town Manager Tammi Ledley said she often directs businesses to the Small Business Development Center, but thinks there is a lot someone could do helping businesses find and keep up with opportunities.

She also suggested the manager could help the town keep current its status as a Sustainable Community, which requires re-certification every few years. Projects like the revitalization of Main Street and replacement of the 1930s water infrastructure could all count toward their next re-certification.

In many municipalities in Maryland, the Main Street manager position is part of the Main Street, Maryland Program, which has requirements and benefits for participants. The council may look to define their manager’s role outside of that program.

Because of changes in state law, grant and loan-related advantages that the Maryland Main Street program might have opened up for Hampstead are now available through the Sustainable Communities program.

“The Maryland [Main Street] program has a lot of requirements in it that we would not find usable for ourselves," Councilman Wayne Thomas said, "so I would be in favor of having someone that we call a Main Street Manager, but not part of this program.”

Ledley found that a Main Street manager typically earns $50-60,000 per year, but different towns classify the role differently. Taneytown’s manager, for example, began as part of economic development and now serves as a main street/economic development manager, Ledley said.

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Even if Hampstead goes forward with hiring a Main Street manager, the 2020 farmers market, which is scheduled to begin in June, will have to be addressed. The farmers market advisory team has discussed options to make sure the manager’s duties are covered by volunteers such as Mayor Chris Nevin.

But for the physical demands of setting up and taking down equipment like tents and tables, the council discussed with the Department of Public Works whether staff would be able to set up and take down equipment like tents, tables and chairs in exchange for two hours of overtime on the Saturdays of the market.

Superintendent Kevin Hann said that shouldn’t be a problem because there are fewer calls for overtime in the summer months. It’s more common in winter when weather calls for plowing snow or fixing frozen water mains.

Those interested in volunteering should send a letter of interest and/or resume by email to Keith Johnson at keithj4@comcast.net or by mail to Hampstead Farmers’ Market, P.O. Box 702, Hampstead, Maryland 21074. More information about the Hampstead Farmers’ Market is available at www.hampsteadfarmersmarket.com.

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