There will definitely be a farmers’ market in downtown Turlock come next season, however, the organization running it is still up in the air as City Council voted on Tuesday to implement a Request for Proposal process to see whether or not Turlock Certified Farmers’ Market would carry on with its seventh season or if newcomer Golden State Farmers’ Market Association would bring its farmers’ market vision to life in downtown Turlock.
“I struggle to understand how the simple act of filling out a form has become an issue of competition between two groups,” said TCFM Board Chair Elizabeth Claes. “Now we are faced with an issue of us vs. them and it saddens me to my core because I thought we were in this together for the betterment of Turlock.
“We will continue to strive to keep the farmers market and provide what we believe is the best for our community. We now have an opportunity to show how great TCFM is and that we’re qualified to continue running it,” continued Claes.
Tuesday’s vote was City Council’s response to what Parks, Recreation and Public Facilities Director Allison Van Guilder called a “new challenge” she didn’t think anyone could have anticipated after GSFMA filed a street closure request to start a year-round market at the current location, dates and time of the existing TCFM.
Van Guilder said that the City dealt with a similar situation a few years ago for the Fourth of July Parade, when another group filed their application prior to the Turlock Downtown Property Owners Association. However, unlike TCFM, TDPOA didn’t object at the time.
As GSFMA managing member and farmer, Peter Cipponeri said that he chose to file a street closure request that mirrored TCFM’s because he believes that the existing market’s location and time are the best possible choices when it comes to running a farmers’ market in Turlock.
“There is nothing personal, whatsoever. I just want to give it longevity,” said Cipponeri.
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.
“I want to bring more to the farmers’ market. I’m going to have enough produce so you don’t have to go to the grocery store if you don’t want to,” said Cipponeri. “I want to see more involvement and I want to see it grow.”
If GSFMA is awarded the street closure and Cipponeri’s idea does comes to fruition, he hopes that he can still work with the TCFM Board in order to merge two ideas together into a better farmers’ market for the community.
“We’re not trying to make it personal. We just want to collaborate with them,” said Cipponeri. “My wife and I are looking forward to meeting with the current Board of TCFM. We want to talk to them and work with them to find a solution that allows us all to work together for the betterment of the Turlock.
“I can’t speak on their behalf, but if I were to win this, I’m going to do everything I can to work with them,” added Cipponeri.
While his fellow Councilmembers agreed with Councilmember Amy Bublak, who said that it was important for them to support an RFP process to avoid a monopoly or exclusivity, Councilmember Steven Nascimento voiced his strong opposition to asking TCFM to compete for its right to continue.
“We should clearly defer to the existing market,” said Nascimento. “It’s beyond my comprehension why we’d do anything else.”
The Council voted 4-1 to implement the RFP process for the farmers’ market, with Nascimento dissenting.
“I am deeply disappointed in the action taken by the City Council. The Turlock Certified Farmers Market would not exist if it were not for the community volunteers who established the market six years ago and have built it to where it is today,” said Nascimento. “To discount the tireless efforts of these individuals and all they have accomplished is a true tragedy.
“The Turlock Certified Farmers’ Market does not belong to the City—it belongs to the community we serve, and it should be allowed to continue to thrive without our interference,” continued Nascimento.