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Palo Alto officials plow farmers market

Original post made on Oct 27, 2009

Palo Alto's seven-month long experiment with farm-fresh produce at City Hall is coming to an anticlimactic conclusion because of underwhelming interest from city workers.

Read the full story here Web Link posted Tuesday, October 27, 2009, 3:54 PM

Comments (28)

Posted by Eat Your Veggies
a resident of College Terrace
on Oct 27, 2009 at 3:58 pm

Memo to City Workers: "Remember to Eat your Veggies!"

Posted by Nicholas
a resident of College Terrace
on Oct 27, 2009 at 4:13 pm

10-20 workers? That's actually a big range, because if it's just 10, then Palo Alto just blew $2,000/employee for their "experiment." What a waste of taxpayer money! How can Klein add that it was a "worthwhile experiment." He apparently has no sense of fiscal responsibility - but then it is government and why should we expect that! Good intentions of politicians usually means the taxpayer loses.

Posted by Toady
a resident of Old Palo Alto
on Oct 27, 2009 at 4:24 pm

""I think it was a worthwhile experiment,"

Well, I guess I know who not to vote for.

Posted by Chris
a resident of Midtown
on Oct 27, 2009 at 4:30 pm

Wait, the city can't even run a farmer's market for a season on budget?

Posted by R
a resident of Old Palo Alto
on Oct 27, 2009 at 4:39 pm

"But the majority of the council agreed to direct staff to explore ways to keep the Farmshop alive without expending city resources."

Surely the staff has more important things to do?

Let. It. Die.

Posted by casey
a resident of Midtown
on Oct 27, 2009 at 4:59 pm

casey is a registered user.

Does the City subsidize the weekend downtown and California Avenue farmers markets?

Posted by P
a resident of Community Center
on Oct 27, 2009 at 5:08 pm

No, Casey the city doesn't subsidize them. In fact, the Downtown Farmer's Market runs on volunteer labor and donates its yearly stall rental proceeds to Avenidas. So not only isn't the market subsidized by the city, it invests in the city. For that reason alone, it was perplexing and a bit irritating, that the City chose to establish an entirely new, competing market at taxpayer expense.

Posted by Farmers Market Shopper
a resident of Charleston Meadows
on Oct 27, 2009 at 5:11 pm

casey: The city budget (see Web Link doesn't show any funding for either the downtown or California Ave farmers markets.

The form 990s filed wotj the IRS by the nonprofit which runs the downtown market also show no such funding. (see Web Link -- note that you need to register for a free account) The downtown market instead appears to turn profit of $15k to 20k per year, and donate the proceeds to Avenidas (see Web Link )

I'm not sure what organization runs the California Ave farmers market -- in any case, its fairly new, and form 990s tend to take years to become publicly available.

Posted by Angry
a resident of Adobe-Meadow
on Oct 27, 2009 at 5:31 pm

Is this our Council in a nutshell? They spend time and money on a "benefit for city workers" that only 10-20 actually want?? No one thought to ask beforehand? No one thought - how can we justify spending time and money on a veggie market that noone is asking for, while our revenue sources crater, we have a looming strike, we need to restructure all our spending, and our infrastructure is crumbling???

It may not be true that Nero fiddled while Rome burned. But I guess we know what the Palo Alto city council was doing.

Posted by cc
a resident of Southgate
on Oct 27, 2009 at 5:32 pm

The workers have probably been staying away from the market because they can get cheaper produce where they live. Also, City employees can't afford to blow money on anything, especially when Whole Foods is much cheaper than the market. Oh, and the fact that Keene has been after workers' wallets since the market opened in March. (coincidentally, when Labor Negotiations began)
Keene and the management group can afford it, not the people you just made go look for part-time jobs to make ends meet.

Posted by Herb Borock
a resident of Professorville
on Oct 27, 2009 at 5:46 pm

The use of City funds for the Farmshop program was the only reason anybody could claim that Civic Center Plaza could be used for a commercial activity.

Palo Alto Municipal Code Section 9.60.040(b) says, "Commercial activities and commercial solicitation not associated with and supportive of city programs or city-sponsored activities are prohibited within the Civic Center Plaza."

Lytton Plaza is dedicated as parkland pursuant to Article VIII of the Palo Alto Charter.

An attempt by the Farmshop program to use dedicated parkland would violate Lytton Plaza's park dedication purposes: "All lands owned or controlled by the city which are or will be used for park, playground, recreation or conservation purposes shall be dedicated for such purposes by ordinance."

Posted by WAy to go Peter
a resident of Stanford
on Oct 27, 2009 at 5:53 pm

[Post removed by Palo Alto Online staff.]

Posted by lazlo
a resident of Old Palo Alto
on Oct 27, 2009 at 6:37 pm

How obtuse of klein to promote a yolo county farmer to provide vegetables to city employees at a marked up price from local growers and local stores.

Posted by huh?
a resident of Downtown North
on Oct 27, 2009 at 7:12 pm

Im a city worker and I have never even heard of this.

Posted by Anonymous
a resident of Community Center
on Oct 27, 2009 at 10:57 pm

This was indeed an element of Drekmeier's sustainability platform. Alas, it proved unsustainable, as did he.

Posted by Carrot
a resident of Professorville
on Oct 27, 2009 at 11:13 pm

After paying $5 for 3 tomatoes (the price was not marked, and I neglected to ask before purchasing), I did not care to buy any more produce at the city hall farmer's market.

Why was the city subsidizing this? It seems as though the farmers should have been happy to use the square for distributing their boxes.

I wanted to support this, but it was a rip off (in my opinion).

Posted by cc
a resident of Southgate
on Oct 28, 2009 at 8:36 am

How Green can this be for Palo Alto? These farmers drive here and back from the Sacramento area.
It is as ironic as the ne Green Waste garbage contract that has these trucks driving waaay south to drop off Palo Alto garbage, and then back here to do it all again.

Posted by Marvin
a resident of Charleston Gardens
on Oct 28, 2009 at 9:13 am

I remember this farmer's market as one of the big important issues that Drekmeier brought up in his State of the City address in January. Says alot about him and his priorities. What about our financial problems, infrastructure issues etc. Another $24,000 wasted on the pipe dreams of our mayor. Thank goodness he is leaving the council at the end of the year

Posted by Melissa
a resident of Barron Park
on Oct 28, 2009 at 11:11 am

This never really made sense to me. I checked it out once and there were only 2 stands with a very limited selection. All of the city workers whether they live here in Palo Alto or not most likely have farmers markets in their own city on the weekends. So why would this be viewed as such a big benefit to city workers??

Posted by Mike
a resident of South of Midtown
on Oct 28, 2009 at 11:18 am

Another example of wasted taxpayer money for pointless government programs that benefit no one.

Posted by DK
a resident of Charleston Meadows
on Oct 28, 2009 at 11:31 am

I am astounded and upset that it cost so much to run a simple program. Or that it even cost anything! I am part of a CSA program that doesn't charge anything to run. Are they idiots! YES!

Posted by pat
a resident of Midtown
on Oct 28, 2009 at 12:37 pm

According to the new Sustainability Coordinator (Van Duynhoven), “a Lytton Plaza Farmshop could attract shoppers both to the market and downtown.”

Too much Kool-Aid at City Hall!

Will anybody brave downtown traffic and parking to buy 3 tomatoes for $5? Especially when there are two fantastic farmers’ markets on Saturday and Sunday?

Maybe the tourists will stop to buy some veggies when they’re in town to see the $270K Bruce Beasley statue at Mitchell Park.

Posted by Dave
a resident of Downtown North
on Oct 28, 2009 at 12:50 pm

Good riddance to bad Drekmeier!

Posted by JW
a resident of Charleston Gardens
on Oct 28, 2009 at 3:32 pm

Thank you Herb Borack; now Debra van Drynhoven the City's new Sustainability Coordinator will not have to waste her valuable and expensive time attempting to find sponsors for a Farmer's Market at Lytton Plaza.

Council please note: Lytton Plaza is dedicated parkland and may not be used for a commercial enterprise like a Farmer's Market.

"All lands owned or controlled by the city which are or will be used for park, playground, recreation or conservation purposes shall be dedicated for such purposes by ordinance."

Posted by Way to go Peter
a resident of Stanford
on Oct 28, 2009 at 6:00 pm

This should be remembered as Drekmeiers folly. A waste of time and money, when our city has major problems to deal with, by a person obsessed with being " green" while having nary a clue about reality

Posted by Dennis
a resident of Downtown North
on Oct 28, 2009 at 11:42 pm

It really isn't much of a market - limited selection, too few vendors. And when given a range of "10 to 20" - you should keep your money in your pocket. I'd like to see the hours of the Saturday Downtown Farmers Market expanded to allow opening at 7:00 a.m.

Posted by Bill
a resident of Barron Park
on Oct 29, 2009 at 5:44 pm

Remember that all council members voted for this, not just Mr. Klein. At least he emphatically said at the last council meeting that it should not be continued. Hopefully he has learned not to be swayed by silly ideas in the future.

However, it was voted by 6 council members to use staff time (Klein and Schmid voted no) to investigate ways in which the program could be continued without using city money. But staff time costs money; so here we go again. Keene was against using staff time for this program.

Posted by EU
a resident of Downtown North
on Nov 3, 2009 at 10:24 pm

No, the city does not fund either the downtown Palo Alto Farmer's Market or the California Avenue. As 'P' mentioned, the downtown Palo Alto Farmers Market is volunteer run (and has been for 29 years!) and donates most proceeds to Avenidas Senior Center. The California Avenue market is run by Urban Village, a not-for-profit corporation that manages several other farmers markets in the area (including Los Altos, Sunnyvale, Santa Clara, etc).

I admire City Hall's willingness to explore projects that aim to increase Palo Alto's "sustainable" credentials, but the most sustainable resources Palo Alto has are its community groups. City Hall could have increased their own political capital without wasting precious financial resources to develop expertise and relationships that existing groups have already achieved over many years. The farm shop is one example, but I would venture to guess that many city projects and programs could best be furthered by partnering with and leveraging the human capital of existing community groups.

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