The San Diego County Board of Supervisors gave tentative approval today to an ordinance designed to make it easier for vendors to sell their goods at farmers markets in unincorporated areas.
Under the current ordinances, growers certified by the county agriculture commissioner can sell their produce at eight certified farmers markets located outside city limits, while uncertified vendors, like those who sell arts and crafts or handmade clothing, have to get a solicitation license from the Sheriff's Department.
Board Chairwoman Dianne Jacob said requiring each individual non- certified vendor to obtain a solicitors license from the sheriff's department "proved a hassle for vendors and a logistical nightmare for the sheriff to oversee."
The proposed changes would allow the operator of the farmers market obtain an annual solicitation permit so that each uncertified vendor wouldn't have to do so. The solicitor's license, which would be subject to an annual fee, would act as an umbrella permit covering all the vendors.
Eric Larsen, executive director of the San Diego County Farm Bureau, said requiring a solicitors license for all non-certified vendors was "onerous."
"The reality is farmers markets are great places for people to buy fresh, local food and produce," Larsen said. "But over time, they've become these community events, as well. They've become these places where folks come and meet each other and they see each other -- so the non-certified vendors have become very important part of that, as well."
Two days before a farmers market opens, the organizer would be required to submit to the sheriff's department a list of uncertified vendors, including their business name, address and intended items to sell.
"This allows for a much easier process for those wishing to participate in a farmers market, saves money to those wanting to participate and also allows the sheriff to streamline the process," Jacob said.
The law enforcement agency would then be allowed to reject a vendor, based on public safety or the items they intend to sell. Agricultural theft, especially of avocados, is a major problem in San Diego County.
If adopted in a second vote on March 11, the changes would take effect May 1.
--City News Service