Op-Ed: What the Farmers Market Teaches us about Strong Towns and Decentralization

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As you might know, the long-standing Kootenai County Farmer’s Market Association (KCFMA) was the biggest network of local producers and vendors forced out of CDA Downtown Association’s weeknight summer market.

The news shocked and saddened many in the community who took to Facebook to vent their frustration. The sentiments seem to be rising to a chorus:

“Shame on the Coeur d’Alene Downtown Association for asking the market to allow people with storefronts and go against the markets original intent to serve producers and makers!”

“Too bad for downtown businesses. I would make a trip downtown for the market and then shop the businesses at the same time. The market is actually a draw to downtown businesses. Their loss.”

“It is too bad the Downtown Association is thinking only of themselves and how having retail participate will help them. We went through this with Car d’ Lane..their way or no way! It shouldn’t always be about money. Good for you standing up for what you believe in!!”

After casting around, the farmers market came up with a solution: hold the Wednesday market in Riverstone.

Though not as centrally located, and no doubt not as convenient for the market’s usual patrons, Riverstone does have the space for KCFMA. Not only are there wide roads and existing shops, but there are many residences around which may help the market attract new customers.

Strong vs Centralized Cities

What this underscores is the inherent fragility of having only one downtown or city center. When that happens, it becomes all too easy for a small cabal or association to take control. The CDA Downtown Association may have had their reasons, but the rest of the city shouldn’t have one of their most beloved events live and die by their decisions.

Especially since they are unelected.

Having more than one “downtown” fixes this and decentralizes control. By having multiple places with mixed commercial and residential zoning, we make a stronger city that is decentralized and in-line with the will of the people.

I applaud the resourcefulness of KCFMA and hope they are eventually able to move back downtown. Even if they don’t, let’s inculcate a culture that will support small businesses and local farmers. Let’s create spaces where the community can come together to live, work, and engage in commerce together: things that should never have been fully separated anyway.

I hope that new developments, like Coeur Terre and others, will intentionally make space for humans to live as God intended, and create downtown areas that will serve to strengthen, not centralize, control in our county.

You can support KCFMA and local producers by going to one of their markets. Their Hayden one will open May 13 and be held every Saturday from 9:00am-1:30pm on Prairie and Hwy 95. Their new location at Riverstone on Wednesday evening will have their inaugural event on May 17th from 4:00pm-7:00pm.