Almanac

News - March 6, 2013

Woodside: Downtown farmers' market appeals to council

by Dave Boyce

Sentiment on the Woodside Town Council is running in favor of a second farmers' market, this one downtown on Saturdays, though exactly where and what time of day are uncertain.

Responding to a January proposal by Maggie Foard, who manages a Wednesday afternoon farmers' market in Skylonda, the council on Feb. 26 asked staff to investigate the idea of a Saturday market in a public parking lot outside Town Hall. But while approval for the Skylonda market in September 2012 happened in short order, this one may take some time.

The parking lot sits inside a public parking district and is shared by a collection of shops, offices and restaurants along Woodside Road west of the Pioneer Saloon. Parking is a hot-potato issue in downtown Woodside. Merchants have reported seeing potential customers drive away after a fruitless search for an open space.

Among the priorities the council gave the staff: sound out the downtown merchants on this proposal, and research the legalities of hosting a market within a public parking district.

Support is abundant. Staff have received around 150 messages asking the council to approve a Saturday market, Town Manager Kevin Bryant said.

Ms. Foard came with several farmers from the Wednesday market and spoke briefly. "We would love to be your farmers' market association," Ms. Foard told the council. "You can own us. We want you to own us."

Jamie Kerr, a co-owner of Alice's Restaurant (across Skyline Boulevard from the Wednesday market), mentioned the benefits of locally farmed produce and had a positive message for retailers about having a farmers' market nearby. "Being a local business, we've only seen our business grow," he said. "You have a lot more foot traffic in the area. People won't be going to Whole Foods (Market). You'll still sell your salad dressing."

A few residents also spoke.

"In the last 40 years, the United States has lost more than a million farmers," said Tom Johnson. "Where's our food going to come from?"

"This isn't just a local community issue," resident Virginia Dare said. "(It's about) the local surrounding community that supports Woodside and that Woodside can support." If the discussion gets hung up on public parking lots, a resolution could take six months or a year, she said. The council should direct staff to consider alternative locations. "It would be great if this could happen in the next three months. ... With 150 letters of support, I think it's clear that the time has come."

Councilman Dave Burow said he is supportive but cautioned against harming downtown merchants.

Councilman Ron Romines asserted that while a Saturday market has "huge support," the "huge challenge" is parking.

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