Keep Arroyo Grande farmer’s market for local producers

January 27, 2014

farmersOPINION By APRIL MCLAUGHLIN

The Arroyo Grande City Council is about to decide on what (if any) conditions they will impose on the Village farmers’ market this coming Tuesday at their regular city council meeting.

The back story is this:

• The Village market never obtained a Conditional Use Permit in all these years.

• The City never required the Village Market to obtain one in all these years.

• Any other ongoing local business would be (and has been) required to obtain a CUP.

• People believe that area farmers’ markets are truly “local”.

• They aren’t. This market absolutely isn’t.

• The county Board of Supervisors adopted a “Buy Local” policy.

• The City of Arroyo Grande adopted a “Buy Local” policy.

• The San Luis Obispo County Farmer’s Market Association (which runs five area markets) does NOT support the “Buy Local” policy and is fighting it at this particular market, now that the city is going to create land use conditions for them.

• The City of Arroyo Grande is on the cusp of allowing this entity – the very epitome of the “Buy Local” philosophy, to have no association with any “Buy Local” concept. No restriction, no signage mandate, no public education – nothing.

• This market allows national food companies, national multi-level marketing companies and a combined 2,700 round-trip miles-away group of farmers to vend there every single Saturday. Every. Single. Week. For about 50 weeks a year. Two thousand seven hundred miles. Every single week. For roughly 50 weeks out of every single year.

• This market gives the illusion that only a very few spots are not available to “local” farmers because of non-local farmers. What they do not highlight is that they run five markets and they have a non-written verbal agreement with their vendors. To whit, if you want to be in their most successful markets you must be in their less successful markets. This means that the out-of-town farmer doesn’t take one spot at our “local” market, they take five. Five whole spots within a very finite space of spots. Multiplied by six, seven or eight non-local farmers at those five markets. It is exponentially deleterious to our local farmers.

• Locally-owned Village businesses collect (and pay) sales tax, a city business license fee (based on annual sales), and wages to local resident employees.

• Locally-owned Village businesses have informed the city that their sales are negatively impacted by the market traffic.

• Farmers’ Market non-produce vendors are not required to have city business licenses and produce is not a taxable sales tax item. There is no quantifiable positive local financial impact from non-local vendors at this point, unfortunately.

• Local artisan vendors cannot vend at this market because national food companies and MLM businesses take that limited space.

• The City is not requiring to be named ‘additionally insured’ with either entity running this market, to mitigate their liability.

• The City is not requiring an on-site market manager with either entity running this market, to mitigate their liability.

• You would think the City of Arroyo Grande would take heed from Pismo Beach’s CUP that absolved them from the wrongful death liability suit, since the Pismo property in question did not follow their CUP requirement.

• The City of Arroyo Grande is being fiscally and ethically irresponsible in their current stance on this particular CUP item. As an Arroyo Grande resident, I have always assumed that my city has my best interests at heart – my interests being what is best for the city coffers and best for our city business dollars as I spend them about town. I want to shop locally, as do many other local residents. Please do not tell me that local patronage is superceded by tourist patronage. It would break my heart and break the heart of many local Village residents.

I could go on and on and on and on. The bottom line is this: We have SLO county and multiple SLO city “Buy Local” policies in place because the concept matters to us locals. The vast majority of farmers’ market (and local business) shoppers shop locally on purpose, in order to make their SLO county dollars matter on a local level. When our “local” farmers’ market get the chance to ‘go legit’ with being truly “local” and they balk, it is disconcerting, to say the least and suspect to say the most.

This is the county that banned indoor smoking and banned plastic bags at stores. Why are we so scared to make our local certified farmers’ market ban non-local farmers and vendors at our local farmers’ market?

April McLaughlin is a long time resident of San Luis Obispo County who attempted to sell her edibles at a farmer’s market, but was unable to get a space.

 


10 Comments

  1. Local says:

    Sour Grapes because April was not allowed into the Farmer’s Market at the time because she intimidated and harassed the Vendors – the existing Vendors did not want her theres. The Merchants of the Village depend on the Market and appreciate all the hard working people that participate and offer their products – it’s really all about nothing. Don’t be fooled !

    Like or Dislike: Thumb up 5 Thumb down 5

  2. abigchocoholic says:

    I could go on and on and on and on. The bottom line is this: We have SLO county and multiple SLO city “Buy Local” policies in place because the concept matters to us locals. The vast majority of farmers’ market (and local business) shoppers shop locally on purpose, in order to make their SLO county dollars matter on a local level. When our “local” farmers’ market get the chance to ‘go legit’ with being truly “local” and they balk, it is disconcerting, to say the least and suspect to say the most.
    ——————-
    This piece is very difficult to follow. You mix your alleged facts with your cliche styled opinions so many times, it just loses all authority.

    Like or Dislike: Thumb up 4 Thumb down 0

  3. tojofay says:

    Right on April!! and PLEASE folks leave your dogs at home.

    Like or Dislike: Thumb up 4 Thumb down 3

    • Citizen says:

      The Templeton market is the worst for dogs–cleanliness. They just don’t enforce their “no dogs within 20 ft. of the food booths” policy.

      Like or Dislike: Thumb up 1 Thumb down 1

  4. falconbh says:

    Just want to see someone stationed at each end of market to keep the dogs out of the food area per health and safety code.

    Like or Dislike: Thumb up 7 Thumb down 6

  5. csmithback says:

    I am a consumer of fruits and vegetables, along with assorted food items that are sold at our local Farmers Markets. My daughter is also a local vendor at two of our local markets. As a consumer, I am very happy that these markets brought in fruit and some vegetables that one could not get here locally. Take for instance right now. The variety of fruits and vegetables is extremely limited if the market only took local product. And consequently, I might not go to the farmers market to shop. I believe that the market managers do a good job of making sure that they have variety, to entice people to shop there. Many of the (out of towners), that April is referring to, have the foresight to see what a market could use, and hence, this is what they pitch to the prospective market managers. If the local people would have had some of the same items, as what the out of towners have, then I am sure the local guys would have gotten the nod. Today, more than ever, you need to reward
    people that go out and find a way to make a living.

    Also, the guy above me said it well.

    Like or Dislike: Thumb up 5 Thumb down 4

  6. Julie says:

    All good info. I had no idea Farmers’ Market’s had so many out of area foods and farmers.
    Thanks for the lesson.

    Like or Dislike: Thumb up 7 Thumb down 3

  7. ajdury says:

    Ugh. That is NOT what I submitted as my opinion piece!

    This is what I submitted:

    How local is your “local” Farmers’ Market?

    In San Luis Obispo County, we are lucky to have a whopping 19 certified farmers’ market to shop at. It makes sense though, given how much agriculture our area is responsible for – from avocados to lemons to zucchini, we pretty much have it all!

    With this kind of bounty growing within 60 miles of any given ”local” farmers’ market you would think that almost every vendor is also within that same 60 mile radius but you would be incorrect in that assumption.

    While we live in a unique area, surrounded by multiple pockets of microclimates that allow area farmers to grow a vast array of produce, your local farmers’ markets have vendors from as far away as Reedley (320 miles round-trip), Sanger (330 miles round-trip) and Orosi (340 miles round-trip) just to name a few out-of-area locales.

    The operators of these markets would have you believe that certain items are just not grown within our “local” area, but that is simply untrue. Figs are grown in Reedley AND Templeton, stone fruit is grown in Orosi AND Paso Robles and Templeton, “Asian vegetables” are grown in Selma AND on multiple farms throughout the county, citrus is grown in Sanger AND Nipomo and various nuts are grown in Huron AND multiple “local” communities. There is very little out-of-area produce brought to our “local” farmers’ markets that does not grow in our own 60 mile backyard. Did you know that kiwis and Loofah sponges are grown on the Mesa? Pretty cool!

    When non-local farmers are taking up the finite space at our “local” farmers’ markets, local farmers are being cut out of their very own communities. That Templeton farmer growing figs doesn’t get a chance to sell within their own community because the market operator only allows the Reedley farmer in – a Fresno county farmer who has travelled 320 miles round-trip to sell their figs. Do you think the Reedley farmer is travelling that far only to lose money each and every week? Our area farmers’ market sellers are doing hundreds of thousands of dollars in vendor sales each year. The Saturday morning farmers’ market at the Madonna Plaza did one MILLION dollars in vendor sales in 2012. Yes. You read that right. $1,000,000.00. Local sales that our local farmers’ cannot attain.

    The other dirty little secret at our “local” farmers’ markets is that when those particular out-of-area items are no longer in season, the out-of-area farmers are still selling produce that is direct competition for our area farmers, in order to keep their booth space at market. When there are no more figs to bring, they are transporting onions, cilantro, carrots, kale, squash, etc. The very produce that is being grown in Huasna Valley, Nipomo, Santa Maria and Edna Valley and being sold at the next booth over. Items that have no signage telling you what is the local cilantro and what is the Lemoore cilantro. It makes you wonder – who is the local vegetable farmer and who is the Hanford vegetable farmer? No banner is required to provide that information. The market operator doesn’t make that information mandatory.
    As a shopper, wanting to make a calculated “buy local” shopping choice, you would think that our “local” farmers’ market is the most logical choice – a “no brainer” in today’s parlance. That would be incorrect, thanks to the very folks bringing you these markets. With no required signage telling us where the produce was actually grown and the market operators helping perpetuate that false “locals” assumption by disavowing SLO County’s “Buy Local” program, we the consumers are caught in their self-serving lie of omission.

    This Tuesday evening, January 28th, at 6:30pm, the Arroyo Grande City Council will make a final decision on what conditions (if any) their Village Farmers’ Market will be required to adhere to. The market operator does not want you, the very person that votes with their local dollars, to know which vendors are from the area and which vendors are travelling over 300 miles to sell to you – which vendors are taking up the space that a local vendor or farmer does not get to occupy. The same market where you can buy the multi-level marketing product “Scentsy”, hummus from a national food company, jelly from Oregon, (via their national sales representative) alongside farmers that travel a combined 2,700 miles round-trip each and every Saturday, every year, year in and year out. Now is your opportunity to stand up for our truly local farmers and your chance to “buy local” at our area certified farmers’ markets.

    Click the link for the AG City Council meeting information, and you can also send correspondence to the following city council members and city planning officials, for consideration at the upcoming meeting:

    tmcclish@arroyogrande.org
    kheffernon@arroyogrande.org
    tferrara@arroyogrande.org
    jcostello@arroyogrande.org
    jguthrie@arroyogrande.org
    tbrown@arroyogrande.org
    kbarneich@arroyogrande.org

    April McLaughlin
    April can be reached at ajdury@yahoo.com and she looks forward to meeting you on Tuesday!

    Like or Dislike: Thumb up 7 Thumb down 4

    • kayaknut says:

      Instead of posting your very long article why not just highlight the parts that, I’m guessing you feel, are different? That seems better than making the reader figure aout what is different.

      Like or Dislike: Thumb up 6 Thumb down 4

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