May 2, 2019
By Michael Stusser
The weekly Occidental farmers market held during summer has become the fabric of our community and no one I know in our neighborhood could imagine our lives without it.
Chris Martin from Howards Station Cafe joined the Sonoma County Certified Organic Farmers Associationand we formed a market management entity for Occidental under that non-profit umbrella. Five of us formed an interim board and have been busy meeting weekly, (and it seems like online hourly) to basically start a new business, get all the necessary permits, and interview candidates for market manager.
There were a handful of issues with the market that needed to be addressed, including the use of restrooms in local businesses, parking, waste management, and some safety concerns. The board is working now with ALL of the local businesses, as well as County of Sonoma officials, to rectify each of these issues. We have come up with simple solutions for the short term and have laid out more elaborate long-term plans. We believe in the market not just to support farmers and local community health, but we believe we can use the market as a vehicle to improve the cohesion, safety, economic success, and beauty of Occidental.
Last Tuesday night we hosted a meeting of previous and prospective vendors at Occidental Arts and Ecology Center to provide information about the progress being made to reopen the market and explore the ways in which we can work with the vendors to address some of the issues that have been of concern. This was the first time this group has ever met and it was inspiring to hear the ways that the previous incarnation of the market supported these farm-based businesses. It was a rich evening filled with camaraderie, goodwill and plenty of energy to see the new version of the market move forward and be even better than before.
Board members have fanned out to interview all of the business in Occidental to get their input about the market and how we might re-envision it to best serve the whole community. Nearly every business in town is participating in the survey and half of the interviews have been completed. So far, the results have shown a highly favorable impression of the market by town merchants with lots of creative ideas about how to tackle the issues that have been problematic. We are receiving $1,000 sponsorships from several to help cover the expenses of reopening the market.
This still falls far short of the money needed to reopen the market and we are launching a fundraising drive online to allow the many folks in the community who have expressed a desire to help support the reopening of the market to contribute. A volunteer from Farm Trails has stepped forward to help design a website for the new market—we encourage you to visit it at occidentalcommunityfarmersmarket.com to get connected.
We met with Supervisor Hopkins on Monday, April 29 who is highly supportive of the market. We discussed the renewed market concept, and have also been working with Public Works and the agriculture department to ensure that the market aligns and complies with county requirements and best practices. We are going forward with having the market on Friday nights and still exploring the exact location.
We cannot do this without your help
In many ways, we are starting this market from scratch. There are physical items that need to be purchased, including new signs, nicer toilet facilities, and tables & chairs, to name just a few. There are also significant administrative costs associated with starting and operating the market. We have had SO MUCH outpouring of support from everyone and for that we are very grateful. Many have asked what they can do to help get the market back up and running. We need funds to get this thing off the ground and it will not happen if we cannot raise enough money for this community's farmers' market. Please email us at firstname.lastname@example.org for more info about how to donate (https://www.gofundme.com/revivetheoccidentalfarmersmarket) and/or to sign up for our monthly updates.
Another way to help out the market is to be part of the volunteer team. We are looking for folks to help assist the market manager and vendors. This will include guiding patrons to appropriate parking areas and to the market-provided restrooms. Volunteers will also be helping to monitor public safety and assist the market manager in keeping everything running smoothly. If you are interested, please drop us an email to email@example.com.
Please support our sponsors:
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