In 2004, the Certified Farmers' Market Advisory Committee came up with a plan that proposed an increase of up to $5. Scott Beylik, a farmer in Fillmore who chaired the group's finance subcommittee, said that "managers and producers shot the plan down."
The 2004 plan also proposed that small farms that earn less than $5,000 at a market yearly would pay lower fees.
For large vendors, which can earn that amount in a single market, and who already pay 5% to 10% of sales to market managers, an additional $4 or $5 fee seems a minor imposition; even for an average farm, which might sell $400 at a market, it would amount to only 1% of sales.
Ultimately, of course, it is the shopper who foots the bill. Few customers are eager to pay more money or burden farmers, but the time may well have come that the alternative — allowing cheaters to continue to flourish — seems even more distasteful.
On Wednesday, Snyder Diamond, a Santa Monica kitchen and bath company, launched a new program that provides scholarships to farmers and employees at the local farmers markets. Ten winners, who were chosen from 12 applicants by a panel including representatives of the Community Alliance with Family Farmers and the Community Food Security Coalition, received $500 grants to fund educational needs, such as attending regional conferences and seminars.
Omar Estrada, an employee at Friends Ranch of Ojai, will use the money for additional on-farm training, and to take a class in agricultural economics. Larkin McLean of Cirone's See Canyon Farm will establish her own garden plot. Grants will be awarded to new winners semiannually, in February and September.