With the start of spring just over one month away, the Turlock City Council is getting closer to finalizing a new process of selecting a farmers' market operator.
The City of Turlock will hold another farmers' market stakeholder meeting on Wednesday, before the City Council is set to consider approving a Request for Proposals document to operate a downtown market during a special meeting on Feb. 20.
In December, the City Council voted to implement a RFP process for the farmers' market after Golden State Farmers’ Market Association president Peter Cipponeri filed a street closure request to hold a year-round market at the same location, dates and time of the existing Turlock Certified Farmers' Market.
The TCFM Board has been against the RFP process from the start, stating that is not the best instrument to gauge what the community wants in a farmers’ market nor adequately reflects the value of a non-profit farmers’ market.
A number of community members have written letters to the editor in support of the TCFM continuing to operate the market. The TCFM has also garnered the support of the Modesto Certified Farmers' Market.
"I have seen new markets within the region start and fail for lack of community support. A successful market is more than just closing a street and having vendors pop up canopies. It requires a corroboration between the market's governing board, the city , vendors, customers and most of all community support and trust only obtained from a well-established market.
"The Modesto Certified Farmers Market supports the Turlock Certified Farmers' Market's endeavor to continue its non-profit certified market within the City of Turlock," wrote Steven Erickson, president, Modesto Certified Farmers Market.
Cipponeri, on the other hand, said he thought the RFP to be fair process.
"The RFP is pretty standard," said Cipponeri in January."At the end of the day, Turlock's going to get a better market."
Cipponeri said that his vision is a year-round market which includes expanding the current TCFM vendor radius to draw in more certified growers throughout the state and to facilitate more competition at the market to lower prices and maintain a steady flow of products.
He has also expressed a desire to work with the TCFM members in the future, no matter which organization the City Council chooses to run the market.
The City of Turlock held a farmers' market stakeholder meeting in January to get input on the draft RFP document. A revised RFP will be presented at 5:30 p.m. Wednesday during a meeting at City Hall. The City Council is then expected to vote on approving the RFP document during a special meeting at 1 p.m. Feb. 20 at City Hall.
A mandatory pre-proposal meeting will be held on March 4 for those organizations seeking to operate the Turlock Farmers' Market, with final proposals due to the City by 3 p.m. March 8.
Proposals are set to go before the City Council on March 15 for selection.
The RFP lays out four key components the City is looking for when selecting a market operator, including expanded vendors, special events that drive business to downtown retailers, community partnerships and a downtown location.
The proposal process is far more in-depth than the prior street closure request and requires potential operators to submit a detailed budget, a list of vendors and partner organizations, specific community events that would be held and asks what compensation, reimburse/cost recovery or other benefits would be paid to the City for the use of City property.
The RFP also requires the operator to have a Certified Farmers' Market designation.
The City is seeking a three-year contact with a farmers' market operator.