Dunlap and the chamber wish to ensure market integrity, they said, by getting rid of peddlers who violated market rules or found loopholes to sell produce bought from other farmers or wholesalers, and to bring in high-quality vendors who grow what they sell. Over the years Dunlap has developed a reputation as one of the most vigilant of managers in keeping cheaters out of her markets.
Such integrity is not always immediately evident to customers, but is crucial to authentic growers trying to survive. One farmer who sold at South Pasadena until last year, Felice Apodaca of Brian Ranch, wrote in an e-mail last Saturday, "I have stopped going to farmers markets, since the big boys from up north seem to be squeezing out the smaller growers like me who can't compete for volume or duration, even with lower pricing."
Even before the expiration of the interim period, Dunlap acted to correct egregious violations of market rules, resulting in the exit of one vendor, Kirby Wyllie of Tulare, who managed four stalls at the market, and who had had his certificate revoked by the state for 17 months in 2007 and 2008 for falsifying documents. "The violations were so apparent that they had to be corrected," Dunlap said.
At the end of the 30-day period she disinvited three other vendors, including Annie Florendo of Sweet Tree Farms, who lives in downtown Los Angeles and sells fruit at eight markets from 40 acres she leases in Dinuba.
"I am truly upset because my small farm depends on the sales that we generate from that market," Florendo wrote on June 30 in an e-mail message.
She also objected that a letter that the chamber sent out to vendors on May 27, as it prepared to operate the market, stated, "Our plan is to keep all the best aspects of the market just as they are, including the inclusion of 100% of current farmers and vendors." This contrasted with market rules, also sent out to vendors, which stated clearly that farmers would be required to apply annually for readmission to the market.
Feldmann, president of the chamber, acknowledged that the May 27 letter should have specified that it referred only to the 30-day interim period. "The language could have been clearer," he said on July 1.
In recent weeks Dunlap has brought in several new vendors, generally highly regarded in the market community, including Tenerelli Orchards, Avila and Sons, Capay Organic, Pudwill Farms, South Central Farmers, Vang Family Farm and J&J Grassfed Beef.
It remains to be seen how this drama will play out. Meanwhile, a new adage may be aborning: "There are two things you should never watch being made: sausages, and farmers markets."
South Pasadena farmers market, El Centro Street at Meridian Avenue, 4 to 8 p.m. Thursdays (4 to 7 p.m. during standard time).