In November 2009, the City Council adopted new regulations to guide the four outdoor Farmers Markets. One section of the new guide that was not approved at that time was Section 2.3.2, which deals with the process for selecting prepared and pre-packaged food vendors.
The revision, prepared by Farmers Market Coordinator Jodi Low, who also directs the Sunday Main Street Market, stipulates that each market will have one booth featuring local restaurants on a rotating basis. Vendors of prepared foods will be selected through an open solicitation process using the criteria of business location, sustainable practices, ingredient sourcing, experience, and value.
Currently, the Wednesday and Saturday downtown area markets feature one restaurant booth, which rotates between various Bayside area restaurants such as Acadie Crepes and Border Grill. There are no restaurant booths at the Saturday Pico Farmers Market, although there are seven prepared food booths. The Sunday Main Street Market features no less than 13 food booths, as well as the popular omelet and pancake booths that are operated by the market’s host, The Victorian (these booths will not be affected by the revision).
According to Low, the change is needed in order to bring increased business opportunities to the four markets.
“We need to have an open recruitment process periodically to fulfill equal access. And up until now the process has been that if a prepared food vendor decides to leave any of the markets, then the space becomes open first to anyone from the local business district and then selected from applicants from outside the business districts. So most of the prepared food vendors never have any reason to leave.”
A few of the vendors have gone out of business, added Low, but in general, the vendors at Main Street have remained stable—and the Market management has been seeking a way to create more diversity. As a result, Low and the Farmers Market have been working on the revision with the Main Street Merchants Association.
A survey of Main Street restaurants and an input meeting in February revealed that Main Street businesses felt that there were too many ancillary food booths at the Sunday market and that customers who dine at the Sunday market tend to not dine at regular Main Street restaurants on the same day.
A survey of customers at the Main Street market, also conducted in February, showed that while most customers attend the market to buy produce and farm products, many people enjoy the prepared food and community aspects of the market.
The revision will provide the Main Street restaurants with the chance to showcase their cuisine at the Sunday market, while the other markets will likewise give greater visibility to restaurants in their neighborhoods.
City staff is recommending that 50% of available square footage at Main Street be allocated to prepared food vendors or 50% of the number of prepared food vendors, whichever is greater.
At its April 13 meeting, the City Council was scheduled to hear a staff report on the revision to Section 2.3.2 of the regulations. The item was postponed to a future meeting.