Ain’t No Party Like A Farmers Market Party…

Because a Farmers Market Party has hella good food. I ended up on a mailing list for the Friends of the Farmers Market, and (because the invitation said there would be food) I decided to traipse on down to the Methodist Church on Thursday evening to see how things were coming along with their plans in the wake of the City Council’s decision to pull the stakes on their lease. Now, I haven’t checked in much with the Farmers Market issue because there are so many different bones of contention (all loudly and cantankerously voiced from all sides) that it’s hard to even know where to begin or to even want to care.

In spite of the spitfire and the confusing conversations, I absolutely do care about the Farmers’ Market, and I care very much for our farmers. I don’t care for venomous vitriol—and sadly, nearly every time I’ve been engaged in conversation about the market, the conversation has degraded into a pissing match between the DCBA and the Friends of the Farmers Market. So instead, many of my fellow Chico-Americans and I just fret and wring our hands and hope for the best, willing everybody to quit being so dramatic.

This meeting was the kick-off party for the Friends of the Farmers Market and an Appreciation Night all rolled into one, emceed by Cheryl King. Before the festivities started and as everyone was finding their seats, there was a sweet little toddler running about in a red-sequined Honey Boo-Boo get-up. At one point the little sugarbear stopped running, lifted up her dress, stuck her hand down the back of her purple tights and vigorously scratched her bum. Itch scratched, she set off around the room visiting with people and touching everybody’s chairs. I super hoped this wasn’t an omen of some kind.

The evening started with a presentation about the history of the Chico Certified Farmers Market, and though it wasn’t rousingly presented, it was delightful to get that back-story. I love history, and I think the story of our town becoming as lovely as it is should be told and retold. At one point in the history lesson we were told about what a shining partner the DCBA was for the market in the early days, which then elicited quite a few snickers and scoffs from many in the crowd.

There were also speakers from a few businesses downtown who spoke about the impact the market has on their business. Lloyd Stephenson from Tin Roof Bakery spoke honestly about his profit margins and what it means to him to be able to participate in the market. He didn’t comment to the necessity of the market remaining downtown; he just said that it was an important part of his business. And he also felt that because his storefront is in SOPO, that the market doesn’t have much of an effect on the vigor of his Saturday business. Jeff King from Grana then went to the podium—and apparently finding his own voice to be surprising sweet ambrosia, he rambled on for quite some time, never really saying anything. Yeah Grana, we get why you love the market and why its location is a boon to your biz. Super obvious. But it’s always nice to get a chance to stand up and preach to the choir, I guess.

There were other speakers who talked about future plans, parking options, solar panels—it was a lot of information packed into a meeting full of smiling, friendly, beloved faces. Unfortunately, there was such a vehement undercurrent of negativity that it was really hard to remain engaged. And since none of the farmers really spoke at the meeting, I can only assume they were there to supply the food. As I wandered about the room snapping pictures, I heard people conspiring and bemoaning, bitching and swearing, angry and stubborn. My next stop is obviously the DCBA to see what their effin problem is I suppose, but I’m back to feeling like I should just put my head in the sand and wait for the chips to fall. And a head’s up for Tom Nickell, next time there’s no calling “Off the Recordsies” after you launch a crazed carpet bomb of f-words in my ear at a public meeting. I think everybody should be on their best, most diplomatic behavior in meetings like this.

After everybody strapped on the feedbag and went to town on the incredible cornucopia of food, breakout groups formed around the room to talk about different things like marketing and the future and fundraising. All things that I would have loved to participate in, but unfortunately I missed the food and I felt more disconnected from my beloved farmers than ever. At one point I asked about how the CCFM plans to grow if they stay in their current spot, considering there’s such a long waiting list. And I was told that the reason people were on the waiting list is because they weren’t really welcome in the market. “Who wants 10 different people selling lettuce? If you had a stand selling something, would you want somebody else coming in to sell it, too?”

I left the church wondering to myself, are the Friends of the Farmers Market really the best advocacy group for the CCFM? The CCFM is a beloved institution, why weren’t there more people at the meeting? People should have been pouring out the windows, spilling onto the sidewalk. The “Friends of the Farmers Market” may mean well, bit I wonder if they aren’t inadvertently becoming “Frenemies of the Farmers Market.”

Tags: ,

Sara makes the words happen.