Before residents of Turlock can enjoy the bounty of local spring harvests at a downtown farmers’ market, the City of Turlock will have to complete its overhaul of the way a market operator is selected.
In December, the City Council voted to implement a Request for Proposal process for a farmers’ market in Turlock. In the past the Turlock Certified Farmers’ Market, which has operated the downtown market for the past five years, was required only to submit a Street Closure Request form to the City to be able to hold the seasonal, weekly event.
A draft RFP document has been created and shared with the two organizations hoping to operate the market, the Turlock Certified Farmers’ Market and the Golden State Farmers’ Market Association, managed by grower Peter Cipponeri.
The first draft of the RFP is a detailed document that outlines exactly what the City wants to see in a downtown farmers’ market, including allowing for an expanded number of vendors, the ability to provide EBT and Cal Fresh benefits, the development and implementation of special events at the market and the forming of community partnerships that focus on health, wellness and/or sustainability with associated activities and events.
The draft RFP also calls for a limit on non-certified farmers’ market products to 25 percent of the total products offered.
Under a section titled, "Compensation for Use of City Property," the RFP calls for the operator to: "Specifically detail what compensation, reimburse/cost recovery or other benefits may be paid to the City for the use of City Property. Such compensation or payment shall be a component of the selection criteria."
The two organizations hoping to gain the farmers’ market contract had differing reactions to the first draft of the RFP.
"The Request for Proposal may not be the best instrument to gauge what the community wants in a farmers’ market nor adequately reflect the value of a non-profit farmers’ market. The RFP is a document that is not only extensive but dictates the market’s eventual structure. This oversight by the city, a result of the RFP, will require city staff and resources to implement," said TCFM Board Chair Elizabeth Claes.
"Yet through this process, we will continue to prove why TCFM as a community based, sustainably developed non-profit farmers’ market is special and valuable to the people of Turlock."
Cipponeri, on the other hand, said he thought the RFP to be fair process.
"The RFP is pretty standard," said Cipponeri, who also operates a farmers’ market in Carmel, California. "At the end of the day, Turlock's going to get a better market."
He also said that no matter what the outcome of the process, he hopes to continue to work with members of the TCFM.
Parks, Recreation and Public Facilities Director Allison Van Guilder said what was presented to the farmers’ market candidates this week was just the first draft of the RFP. After revisions, a final draft will be presented to the Turlock City Council for approval before being formally issued. An expected date of when the RFP will be going before the Council has yet to be determined.