There's only one action item on the agenda for Tuesday's special Turlock City Council meeting — selecting an operator to manage a certified farmers market in downtown Turlock — but that doesn't mean it will be an early night for Mayor Gary Soiseth and Turlock's four council members. The last time the Council convened to discuss the farmers' market Request for Proposals process, the meeting lasted over four hours — and that was on a Saturday.
The call for proposals to run the market brought in two applicants, the Turlock Certified Farmers Market and the Golden State Farmers' Markets Association. Along with a lengthy packet of information each organization was required to submit to the City to be considered for the job, both parties will have 20 minutes Tuesday night to convince the Council that their proposal is the best.
In a proposal cover letter, Turlock Certified Farmers Market Board Chair Elizabeth Claes points to the six years of successfully operating a downtown market and the community partnerships made as a reason the Council should choose TCFM as the operator of the market going forward.
"Over 2,000 community members attend the market each week, finding quality local produce, processed foods and handmade goods. The market has put feet on the streets of downtown Turlock that, in turn, bring new customers to the downtown restaurants and shops. Economic benefits are gained while providing a weekly wholesome community gathering," wrote Claes.
"TCFM is proud to connect the community with local farmers and agricultural food producers which encourages a deeper connection of where our food comes from and has worked to foster a culture of trust between the two groups," she continued.
TCFM proposes to continue running a seasonal farmers' market, May through November, from 8 a.m. to 1 p.m. on E. Main Street between Center and Palm streets. TCFM states that it will adjust its weeks of operation if there is a request for change from the market farmers and food producers and the community, but only if it's supported by the downtown businesses whose storefronts are directly impacted.
TCFM proposes to continue its practice of limiting the number of vendors selling the same produce or goods and to allow only local farmers to participate, which is defined as 50 miles or less from Turlock. There is an exception to the 50 mile radius rule for agricultural products not offered for sale by local growers.
TCFM proposes to further support local growers with a Buy Fresh Buy Local marketing campaign to increase customer awareness of the benefits of eating "local."
In their proposal, the Golden State Farmers' Market Association —directed by Peter Cipponeri — states its vision is to "operate a vibrant market that boasts new and fresh ideas that are designed to promote the financial, physical and mental health of the entire community (e.g., local farmers, merchants, low-income residents, children, etc.)."
GSFM is proposing to operate the market from 8 a.m. to 1 p.m. on Saturdays from May through the end of October on E. Main Street between Center and Thor.
In contrast to TCFM, Golden State is proposing to open up the market to include vendors from different regions.
"GSFMA can recruit vendors that offer the freshest and highest quality produce in California, including many products that, in prior years, have not been offered at the Turlock Market because they are not grown by local farmers. For example, in past seasons, the Turlock market did not offer regional strawberries, lettuce, apples, asparagus, artichokes, raspberries, blackberries and avocados," according to Golden State's proposal.
GSFMA contends that "local vendors will also benefit by this change in philosophy by improving the long-term health of the Market."
Golden State also proposes to reach out to all of the local vendors that participated in the 2015 market and offer them priority spacing at the 2016 market.
Complete proposals from both applicants can be found in the City Council's March 15 Agenda and Packet, available online at: www.cityofturlock.org/government/turlockcitycouncil/citycouncilmeetings/
Tuesday's meeting will be held at 6 p.m. in the Yosemite Room of City Hall, 156 S. Broadway.