Portola Valley green-lights farmers' market plan | May 1, 2013 | Almanac | Almanac Online |



News - May 1, 2013

Portola Valley green-lights farmers' market plan

by Dave Boyce

The Portola Valley Town Council has given its consent to proceed with plans for an eight-week trial run of a weekly Thursday afternoon farmers' market in Portola Valley.

The market would tentatively run from 3 to 7 p.m. with as few as 15 or as many as 25 booths, said Brandi de Garmeaux, a member of the town staff who coordinates initiatives on sustainable living. She spoke at the council's April 24 meeting.

Ms. de Garmeaux said in an interview that she will be talking with potential market managers and she plans to bring the council a formal proposal on May 8. If approved, a Thursday market could get going two to four weeks later, but may take longer depending on her schedule, she said. A progress report would come after six weeks.

As with markets in Woodside, this one would be relatively small and carry locally grown organic produce and some locally prepared foods such as hummus and chocolate truffles. There could be some live music to create an atmosphere, but no food trucks "for now" — a concession to Roberts Market, the Portola Deli and the Parkside Grille restaurant, Ms. de Garmeaux said. Those merchants may want to consider specials tuned to market day, she added.

A booth staffed by members of some of the 16 volunteer town committees would be there to encourage civic participation in town affairs. Nicole Pasini, the manager of the public library in town, said she hopes the market would increase traffic at the library.

The market would be professionally managed and would be in keeping with a green agenda for the town, Ms. de Garmeaux said. With locally grown organic produce, it would help advance Portola Valley's sustainability initiatives and could encourage merchants in town to sell more organic produce, she said.

Support was plentiful, but not universal. Residents Laura Stec and Brook Coffee, two of the moving forces behind the idea, explained some of their enthusiasm. Children are overweight and people have lost their kitchen skills, Ms. Stec said. "We are a community of people who need to get back into the kitchen," she said. "Most people don't even know how to sharpen a knife."

The music would be on the quiet side, Ms. Coffee said. An a capella group of singing children, for example, or a solitary banjo or mandolin.

Ms. Coffee said she frequents the Sunday Menlo Park farmers' market but, complaining about having to drive out of town, she held up a half-gallon canning jar filled with an unidentified tea-colored liquid. "In my Prius, I still use half a gallon of gas," she said. "That makes me nauseous."

Broccoli and kale can induce children to claim they feel nauseated, but not her kids. Ms. Coffee said she hears from parents amazed that her children sometimes bring broccoli to snack on.

As for the approximately 20 opponents who showed up, they were vocal but limited to the Family Farm/Hidden Valley neighborhood that is part of Woodside and within hearing distance of Town Center. Traffic and parking were concerns as was noise and interference with equestrian activities. The big question: Why do it at all?

"I object strenuously to the farmers' market. I don't think we need a farmers' market every two miles," said Hidden Valley resident Lynn Lane Jacobson, referring to the Woodside markets, Webb Ranch and the produce sections of Roberts Market and Bianchini's Market in Ladera. "What local farms? Who are the farmers? ... If you want to socialize, go to the Town Hall and socialize where you won't make noise. ... I see no use for this. You have enough farmers' markets."

"I think it's really important that we carefully weigh the pros and cons," said another Hidden Valley resident. "I think it's possible that people outside of Portola Valley would come to this market."