In the absence of a chair for the Oak Park Farmers Market Commission, Cameron Davis, assistant director of development customer services and staff liaison to the farmers market commission, oversaw the commission’s April 14 meeting.
Davis was quick to inform commissioners the village has hired a new market manager for the 2021 season set to commence on Saturday, May 22. Kimball Ingram, Oak Park resident and recent Florida transplant, has met all requirements, passed his background check, and signed a letter of intent.
“I think you will find him very personable,” said Davis. “I think he will bring new fresh ideas. I am really excited to be working with him.”
According to Davis, who participated in the interview process, Ingram has background in restaurant and bar ownership and is set to start working for the village on Wednesday, April 21. Davis indicated he will also facilitate one-on-one introductions between commissioners and the new market manager.
Building on momentum, Davis went on to announce offers have been extended to fill two of three assistant market manager positions. The candidates are still going through the official hiring process and the release of their names is pending the outcome of background checks and other requirements.
While questions linger surrounding the ability to properly staff the online ordering and pick up program through the What’s Good app, Davis announced the hiring of three additional assistant managers to handle the complex aggregation has been approved by village staff. The positions account for approximately 400 additional hours and represent a $5,000 investment in the farmers market outside of the regular budget. That increase leaves the market with four available assistant positions to fill.
“I am very interested in filling these positions,” said Davis who also acknowledged the early weekend hours often deter potential candidates. He went on to indicate several village employees, including himself, are interested in volunteering their time at the market.
Nearly 20 vendors have applied to be part of the market in the 2021 season and Davis expects more to come on board as the season nears. Vendor acceptance notifications were set to begin going out late last week. Davis is also coordinating a virtual meet up between Ingram and market vendors.
It was also announced that special events will not be allowed during the first five markets. It is unclear how this may impact “Go Green Days” typically held during the early part of the market season.
Davis and commissioners agreed they need to work together to bring equity back to the market as compared to last years modified market. Vendors along East Avenue did not fare as well as those positioned on Scoville. Though the 2021 market is returning to the Pilgrim Church parking lot, pedestrian traffic will still be required to flow in a one-way loop. The commission is considering ways to encourage market shoppers to reserve some of their dollars and encourage people to loop around twice before purchasing.
Davis said the next commission chair would likely be appointed by Vicki Scaman, incoming village president. Applications for a farmers market assistant managers are still being accepted according to the village website.