City lists ingredients for ultimate Market

An accountable operator with clear rules, healthy options for prepared foods, more music, art and crafts, an emphasis on local farmers… the City Council shopping list for a Farmers Market manager looks a lot like last year’s version.

The items will become part of the request for proposal (RFP) process as the city puts the 2011 Tuesday night management job out to bid.

The current manager, Sonoma Valley Certified Farmers Market, will participate in the process. “We had a lot more improvements to give, but never got the opportunity,” said SVCFM Board Chair Bill Dardon. “That will have to be done with the RFP.”

The RFP incorporating the council’s conditions will be issued on October 11, with a November 19 deadline. The 2011 market will begin in May, rather than the usual April, to give the incoming management team more time to prepare.

The council disagreed with a recommendation by city staff to end the market in September. It will continue through October as usual despite concerns about weather-related damage to the Plaza lawns.
In another change, the council removed the stipulation that the market must be certified by the state. The rules for Certified Farmers Markets enacted by the state were meant to protect the consumer and authenticate the source of produce and vegetables.

But those rules also dictated the placement of vendors on the Plaza and, according to on-site managers, what vendors were eligible to participate.

On a legal point, the market will continue to operate under a use permit. City Attorney Jeff Walter asked the council to consider a contract agreement. Usually, a contract would create more separation between the city and the operator, he said, “The more control you want, the more responsibility you have,” he said.

It was agreed that, given the city’s involvement in the market, it was too late to change the nature of the relationship. “We’re in that soup already,” said Mayor Steve Barbose.


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