Keep Arroyo Grande farmer’s market for local producers
January 27, 2014
OPINION 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.