Almanac

News - February 6, 2013

A farmers' market in downtown Woodside?

by Dave Boyce

Skylonda residents and the Woodside Town Council welcomed a farmers' market on Wednesday afternoons at Skyline Boulevard and La Honda Road in Woodside. Would the council, residents and downtown merchants welcome another one, perhaps in the public parking lot outside of Town Hall on Saturday afternoons?

Maggie Foard, who manages the Wednesday market, proposed this idea in brief remarks at the council's Jan. 22 meeting. Because she brought it up during the public comment period — the item was not on the formal agenda — the council refrained from commenting.

The idea for the Wednesday market at Skylonda met with near universal acclaim from the council and the community last fall. A commercial use permit was amended to allow open-air sales at the site. The market closed for the season in mid-December and is set to reopen in April.

A Saturday farmers' market in downtown Woodside would present complications. Ms. Foard is seeking space on public property that is not zoned for such activities, so she would need a variance, she said. A market would take parking spaces in a town chronically short of parking. And Roberts Market just down the block has a significant produce section.

If Ms. Foard applies for a use permit, town staff would assess the factors, including effects on parking and access for people with disabilities, Deputy Town Manager Paul Nagengast told the Almanac. When someone proposes some activity on public property, "the question always is, 'Would we issue ourselves a permit?'" he said. The matter could end up before the Planning Commission, the council or both.

The market can be seen as an activity to strengthen community spirit and help the residents live sustainably, objectives that are embodied in Woodside's recently revised general plan, Ms. Foard noted.

"I envision a friendly and intimate farmers' market with a focus on local seasonal organic produce from nearby small family farms and other small food producers to complement but not compete with the existing local specialty stores," Ms. Foard said. "I think the Wednesday market has accomplished this nicely and having a second local market on the weekend would be the icing on the cupcake so to speak."

The market would be certified by the county Agriculture Department, as is the Wednesday afternoon market and the Sunday markets in downtown Menlo Park and at Canada College. A certified market in San Mateo County requires that the produce be sold by the outfit that grew it.

Among the items available at Woodside's Wednesday afternoon market are organic fruits and vegetables, organic grass-fed beef and chicken, free-range eggs, wild and sustainable seafood, local honey and cheeses and fair trade coffee, Ms. Foard said. "So it's very different than a farm stand or produce market. It is direct from farm to table."

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