Transparency Builds Better Markets

 

One of the greatest Cooperative attributes I admire most is “transparency.”  It’s an uncommon organizational quality, but when done right it builds stronger institutions.

In October, many of you may have signed the petition on Del Mar in support of renewing the City’s permit for the San Clemente Farmer’s Market.  What you might not have realized, however, was that the farmer’s market permit was not in question as much as was the operator’s permit.

A little transparency:  The Farmer’s Market operates under a special permit issued by the San Clemente Recreation Department.  This special permit allows the operator, Introductions Unlimited, Inc., to occupy Avenida Del Mar on Sundays from 9am to 1pm.  The permit itself renews every three years (expiring 12/31/2013), and is easily renewed unless there is a violation—an undefined term, as this special permit has no performance guidelines besides required hours, insurance, and business licenses.  Because of this, the City has renewed the farmer’s market permit with Introductions Unlimited, Inc. for the past 18 years.

This year a grassroots group of local citizens called Friends of the San Clemente Sunday Farmers Market challenged the permit’s renewal by gathering the signatures of about 400 San Clementians who want a better farmer’s market.  Hence, Introductions Unlimited countered by having to gather signatures of support on the Sunday prior to the October 15th City Council Meeting.

Donned in matching green shirts, members of Friend of the San Clemente Sunday Farmers Market spoke to the Council of their desire for a more vibrant market—an event, with more vendors and entertainment.

That would be nice, but the economic realities of running a farmer’s market—balancing competition while providing profits to farmers, and, of course, covering overhead costs for insurance, permit fees, and the market manager’s salary—takes great care and preparation.

Being supporters of both the farmer’s market and sound economic practices, the San Clemente Community Market’s Board of Directors submitted a letter of recommendations to the City Council on behalf of its 113 family member-owners.  If you would like to read it, please click here.

When all was said and done, the City Council made wise decisions:  To accept the market manager’s offer to increase the permit fee from $250 to $300 per month; to reduce the special permit term from three to two years; and, perhaps most importantly to San Clementians, to open up the farmer’s market management position to a competitive bidding process (RFP) in the fall of 2015.

That’s when San Clemente Community Market will be at the table giving you, its member-owners, a voice in how the farmer’s market can better serve our community.  In the meantime, it’s good to already be seeing positive changes taking place at our farmers market—more vendors, more organics, more specific labeling… more Transparency.

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