May 13, 2014 1:13 AM
Friends of the Farmers Market are one step closer to saving a decades-old Chico tradition. The group showed up at City Hall Monday afternoon with over 9,300 signatures, which is nearly double the amount required to put the issue on the November ballot.
The Chico Certified Farmers Market has operated at Second and Wall Streets for decades. When the agreement with the city was made null and void, community members started gathering signatures to put the issue on the November ballot to ensure the market stays put. "We decided to put it to rest once and for all and let the people of the city of Chico speak about what it is they want," said Cheryl King, Spokesperson for Friends of the Farmers Market.
Supporters say the market is a big contributor to the downtown economy and brings 3,000 people each week. "To take that many people out of the downtown area on a Saturday, which is a busy shopping day where they go downtown to eat, visit, look in bookstore windows and clothing windows, would be an economic issue for this city," explained King.
Natalie Carter, office manager for the Chico Certified Farmers Market says the market is a community tradition that we need to keep alive for future generations. "We really don't want to mess with a good thing. We’ve been there for 21 years and it’s been a great home for the farmers market and for the community and we want to keep it that way."
A committee, including city officials and the farmers market, has been put together to try to find a solution that everyone can agree with. However, city officials are concerned with the legality of the petition. "Placing something like this on the ballot that two city attorneys have opined is invalid and is not something that's advantageous from the cities perspective. I mean, voters would be voting on something that could not be enacted, if the city attorney's opinion is correct," explained Chico City Councilmember Randall Stone.
Whether the petition is legal or not, the number of signatures collected sends a strong message on what the community wants. "Legal or illegal, that's a significant motivator and that tells us what we should be doing," said Stone.
No matter where the farmers market ends up, everyone can agree that they want to keep it alive. "The farmers market is really a gem for our community and it would be a hard loss," said Carter. There have been suggestions to move the farmers market to the lot behind city hall but the lot is smaller and they would lose 20 percent of farmers. It would also reduce the aisles from 15 feet to 9 feet.