The San Luis Obispo City Council advised the Downtown Association to compromise with the Farmers’ Association and allow the farmers to have some say in the workings of the famous Thursday Night Farmers’ Market. Proclaiming the farmers an essential part of the weekly event, the council members said farmers’ representatives should have a legitimate and substantial say in running the produce portion of the festivities.
Calling the Downtown Association’s takeover from the farmers a “public relations disaster,” Councilman Allan Settle said the Downtown Association needs to compromise.
“There should be some autonomy for farmers,” he said. “If there isn’t, then I would be willing to revisit the terms of the contract.”
The city has a two-year contract with the Downtown Association to run the Thursday Night Farmers’ Market, as well as other events.
The Council claimed it could do little to influence the decisions of the Downtown Association because that body is no longer a city-sponsored organization. The association separated from the city in 2008.
The city collects taxes from downtown business owners and funnels that money to the Downtown Association. The city estimates it will collect $216,000 this fiscal year from business owners to finance the association.
Except for its own leadership, no one spoke in support of the Downtown Association. More than 30 speakers—including farmers, downtown business owners, and even a small child—voiced support for the Farmers’ Association. Council members said this issue has generated an unprecedented number of calls and e-mails from the public, all in support of the Farmers’ Association—with one exception: an e-mail from a Downtown Association official.
Billed as part of an informational session, Downtown Association representatives briefed the City Council and the public on why they unilaterally took over representation of the farmers’ portion of the market. Citing a lack of communication with Farmers’ Association administrator Peter Jankay, Downtown Association speakers said the takeover was a “necessary step” for the good of both the farmers and business owners.
Jankay said he resigned from the Downtown Association’s promotion board—an action cited by the Downtown Association as a contributing factor to the parting of ways—because he was told the farmers were going to have to move down the block to an area he and his farmers believed to be an economic dead zone. He said he learned that the Farmers’ Association had been fired by fax.
The Downtown Association unilaterally took control of the farmers’ section from the Farmers’ Association on Jan. 28. No farmers had any say in the changeover, and many farmers didn’t hear of the changeover until shortly before it happened.