Ann Arbor Public Market Advisory Commission meeting (March 2, 2010): In her market manager report during Tuesday’s meeting, Molly Notarianni gave a recap of the Homegrown Local Food Summit, where she’d spent most of the day.
She noted that one of the market commissioners, Shannon Brines, was absent because he also had spent the day at the summit, as one of its organizers, and was wrapping up loose ends there. Though both the commission meeting and the summit have similar themes – both focused on locally grown food – The Chronicle will report on the summit in a separate article.
Tuesday’s commission meeting touched on several topics, including a proposed transfer of seniority between two market vendors, and an upcoming annual meeting with vendors on March 8. At that meeting, the commission will be getting feedback on proposed changes to the city’s vendor application and inspection forms.
The annual meeting and revisions to the forms were the focus of two speakers during public commentary. Market vendors Scott Robertello of Kapnick Orchards and Bruce Upston of Wasem Fruit Farm criticized aspects of the proposed changes, saying that too much information was being required.
Annual Vendor Meeting
Commissioners reviewed the agenda for their March 8 annual vendor meeting, to be held from 6-8 p.m. at Cobblestone Farm, 2781 Packard Road. Items on the agenda include a discussion of 2010 events at the market; an update on changes to the market facilities, the Fifth Avenue streetscape and Kerrytown area; an update from the commission’s outreach subcommittee; and a time for questions from vendors.
In addition, part of the meeting will focus on proposed changes to vendor application and inspection forms, and on getting feedback from vendors. At their February meeting, commissioners had spent considerable time discussing those changes. [See Chronicle coverage: "Market Commission Preps Vendor Meeting"] The agenda and drafts of those forms will be posted on the commission’s website.
Two vendors from the Farmers Market spoke during public commentary, both of them critical about proposed changes to the vendor application and inspection forms, among other issues.
Scott Robertello of Kapnick Orchards started out by saying he was very disappointed that the city wouldn’t reimburse vendors more quickly for Project Fresh coupons – he reported that one once occasions he had to wait almost 120 days before he got reimbursed. [Project Fresh provides coupons for fresh fruit and vegetables to those enrolled in the federal Women, Infants and Children (WIC) program.] Robertello said he also is a vendor at the Garden City farmers market, a much smaller venue. There, he said, they collect coupons and reimburse vendors once a month.
Robertello also criticized communication about the upcoming meeting with vendors on March 8. He had just received the mailed notice about the meeting on March 1, even though he knew the commission had set the date more than a month ago. The new vendor application hadn’t been available on the commission’s website, he said – they needed to be more clear and upfront about what they are doing.
There were several concerns that Robertello had with the proposed vendor inspection forms. He objected to the amount of personal information that was being asked for, such as cell phone numbers. Certain people, he said, make Freedom of Information Act requests to get that kind of information to harass him. He also noted that there seemed to be a major emphasis on getting ingredients for baked goods, while other types of products didn’t require the same level of detail. He said he knew that some people had come to the commission and complained about him. [At previous meetings, Luis Vazquez has spoken during public commentary to criticize Kapnick Orchards for not following market rules on baked goods.]
Bruce Upston of Wasem Fruit Farm said he was in “total agreement” with Robertello. The proposed inspection form could take days to complete. “It’s more like an IRS audit rather than a market inspection,” he said. Upston also said he received a notice in the mail on March 1 about the March 8 meeting. Though he had known about the meeting previously, he said many vendors didn’t. The market commission could do a better job of getting the word out, he concluded, because there are significant changes in the works.
The commission discussed a request to transfer market seniority from Ken Prielipp to Karlene Goetz. Prielipp – of HillTop Greenhouse & Farms – is retiring and has applied to transfer his seniority to Goetz, a relative who also sells at the market.
A public hearing on the transfer is set for the commission’s April 6 meeting. This is part of a standard process whenever a transfer is requested, said Molly Notarianni, market manager. The commission will then make a recommendation, which will be sent to the city’s community services administrator for a final decision.
Responding to a question from commissioner Diane Black, Notarianni said there are limited conditions under which seniority can be transferred: When someone dies, retires or the business is purchased.
After the meeting, Notarianni clarified why the status of a vendor’s seniority is valued. There is a seniority list that records how long each vendor has been selling at the market – some vendors go back several decades, she said. At 6 a.m. every Saturday, the market manager gathers with the vendors to assign stalls for the day. A vendor’s seniority determines the order in which those stall assignments are made – the most senior vendor gets first pick, and so on.
Peter Pollack told commissioners that they should plan to vote on the transfer at the April 6 meeting.
Updates from the Market Manager
Molly Notarianni reported that three potential vendors had applied to the market. One wants to sell handmade organic skin care products. Another would sell vegan baked goods, including cookies, brownies and banana bread. A third applicant proposes selling a variety of products, including chickens, eggs and basil. In addition, she said that two vendors who’ve been previously turned down – offering to sell South American baked goods and stained glass items, respectively – have made queries about applying again.
Commissioners reported that they’d received an email from someone who wanted to sell worms for use in gardening. In the email, the person inquired whether this type of item was something that the market would even consider – was it worth going through the process of applying? “I would say yes,” said commissioner Genia Service.
Other items from Notarianni’s report:
- Starting on May 22 through August, every Saturday the nonprofit Peace, Love & Planet will be collecting plastic garden pots and trays to recycle from shoppers and vendors.
- The farmers market and adjacent Kerrytown Market & Shops are planning an event that will include a tour of both venues, highlighting products in the market and possibly ending with a meal in the shopping complex. The shops are also interested in partnering with the market for some kind of an open house for students in the fall.
- The Homegrown Local Food Summit focused on a “10% for Washtenaw” campaign, Notarianni reported. The goal is to get residents to spend 10% of their food budget on locally produced food. “That can only bode well for the market,” she said.
In a follow-up question from commissioner Peter Pollack, Notarianni said that replacements for the large signs in the market are still being produced. Shannon Brines had requested a change in the design, adding information to indicate that the market is open Saturdays year-round. Those changes are being made, she said.
Present: Commissioners Dave Barkman, Diane Black, Peter Pollack, and Genia Service. Also: Molly Notarianni, market manager.
Absent: Shannon Brines.
Next meeting: The commission’s next regular meeting is on Tuesday, April 6, 2010 at 5:30 p.m. in the fourth floor of the Ann Arbor District Library’s downtown building, 343 S. Fifth Ave., Ann Arbor. [confirm date]