County issues farmers market RFP
People and groups interested in running the Friday farmers market in the Arnold Field parking lot will have the opportunity to respond to a Request for Proposal (RFP) described in a 27-page document circulated Friday, April 1 by the Sonoma County Regional Parks Department.
The deadline to respond to the RFP is 2 p.m., Friday, May 13, with a mandatory pre-RFP conference for all proposers set for 2 p.m. Friday, April 15 at the Sonoma Valley Veterans Memorial Building.
The current market operator is Sonoma Certified Farmers Market, where manager Hilda Swartz has been in charge for many years. The RFP notes that the market operates from 9 a.m. to noon, 52 weeks a year, with up to 50 vendors in peak season.
Whoever submits the successful proposal will be subject to a minimum monthly event fee of $100, but the county could accept a proposal with a higher fee. Other elements of the RFP outline insurance requirements, area clean-up and maintenance, full accounting and record keeping, accessible and current website requirements, and access for shoppers to use Electronic Benefit Transfer (EBT) cards so that local residents can purchase produce with CalFresh (food stamp) benefits.
The RFP requires in-depth information about the proposers, including the type of entity they are (sole proprietor, partnership or corporation), their level of experience, whether they are certified or not as farmers market operators and a description of their plan for development, operation and general management of the market. Also required is a list of key personnel, contact information and a plan for green waste management. The RFP also states that knowledge of the local environment is important and that the county is working on policy that would favor local operators.
First District Supervisor Valerie Brown announced earlier this year that a new surface for the parking lot between Arnold Field and Depot Park will be completed by early May, requiring a temporary move of the Friday farmers market to the Veterans Building parking lot. Brown has made it clear she would like a decision on farmers market management made as soon as possible after completion of the parking lot paving work.
Funds for the paving job, said Brown, will come from an untouched account that has been accumulating income from cell phone towers located on the property. "It's a pocket we're not now using," she said.
Brown also made it clear that opening the market to new management was not an attack on current market leadership.
"It's not a reaction against Hilda (Swartz)," Brown said, explaining she felt the market needed to be revitalized with greater emphasis on "local products and local people." Brown added that Swartz will be free to apply resume management of the event.
Final interviews for proposers will held be during the week of May 23-27, and the notice of intent to award the contract will be announced June 3, followed by formal board approval on June 21, with the expectation that the new farmers market manager would take over effective, July 1.
The full RFP can be found and downloaded at www.sonoma-county.org/parks/.