Almanac

News - July 31, 2013

Portola Valley extends life of farmers' market

by Dave Boyce

The Portola Valley Town Council has agreed that the new farmers' market at Town Center could continue to operate for another year, but did not agree that food trucks could be part of the weekly event.

After a six-week trial, the Town Council reviewed the market at its July 24 meeting. A staff report by Brandi de Garmeaux, the town's sustainability coordinator, documented the community's warm welcome to the market since its debut on June 13, and the council agreed unanimously to extend the market's permission to operate for another year.

The market is serving several purposes, Ms. de Garmeaux said in a staff report:

• The opportunity for socializing is helping to build a sense of community.

• With the town staffing its own table at the market, it is creating an interactive channel between residents and public institutions, including the library and volunteer organizations.

• The personal presence of farmers selling their produce helps explain the role of agriculture.

• The availability of locally grown organic produce advances the town's goals of becoming a community that is environmentally sustainable, meaning that today's residents meet their needs without harming opportunities for future residents to meet their own needs.

A step in that direction involves how you get to the market, resident Danna Breen noted in recommending that people walk, bike or come by horse. "Anything, really, to cut down on car traffic, but really for the vibe of the whole thing that's going on there," Ms. Breen said.

Councilwoman Maryann Derwin compared the market favorably to the ways of French villages and called it "an antidote to things in Silicon Valley that are not friendly to community." She added that after her trips to the farmers' market, she will stop at Roberts Market and/or Bianchini's Market in Ladera to pick up other items. "It's keeping me in town," she said.

As for prepared food, Ms. Derwin backed Ms. de Garmeaux's bid to invite food trucks or food carts so as to make Thursday night dinners easier and more sociable for families coming to the market. San Mateo County allows food carts to sell one of three items: hotdogs, tamales or empanadas, Ms. de Garmeaux said. But after some deliberation, the council deferred to the concerns of local merchants.

Management at Roberts Market and the Portola Cafe Deli, both about a mile and a half away, expressed opposition to food trucks and carts, Ms. de Garmeaux said. While no one from either business attended the meeting, Ms. de Garmeaux's report elicited comments on their behalf.

An audience member reminded the room of the years Portola Valley was without a grocery store, a point not lost on the council.

"We went so long without a good market in town," said Mayor John Richards.

Roberts and the deli provide a community service in terms of their operating hours and the variety and quantity of what they sell, and they're paying taxes, Councilwoman Ann Wengert said. "They're very much a part of our community," she added. "We don't want to disadvantage them."

At the suggestion of council members Ted Driscoll and Jeff Aalfs, the council asked Town Manager Nick Pegueros to consider other events — star-gazing parties and model aircraft "flight nights," for example — as possible venues for food trucks. Mr. Pegueros will report back on Aug. 28 with his findings.

Another option he will be investigating: whether to extend the market's operations through the winter. The continuity of year-long operations is important to vendors, Ms. de Garmeaux said.

It was coincidental that food trucks were in the vicinity of Town Center for two recent farmers' markets. They were there in connection with free Thursday evening summer concerts. And they're likely to be around for another concert in late August.

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