CITYWIDE — The Santa Monica Farmers’ Markets have announced six prepared food vendors as the winners of the annual selection process.
Beginning in June of this year, Euphoria Loves Rawvolution, Groundwork Coffee, Ihsan’s Falafel, Urban Green and Vucacious Catering will be at the Main Street market. Mis Padres Salsa and Tacos and Rockenwagner Bakery will be at the Saturday Pico Park Farmers’ Market.
The six prepared food vendors are part of a group of 19 slots currently spread across all of Santa Monica’s markets. The distribution of the slots varies based on the market location. Wednesday’s Downtown market is the largest with about 75 farmers, two bakeries and a rotating featured restaurant. Saturday’s Downtown market has about 50 farmers plus a bakery and featured restaurant. The Pico market has about 33 farmers with two bakers and two prepared food vendors. The Main Street market also has about 32 farmers, but it has many more prepared food vendors, up to 15, plus representation from local businesses that are regulated separately.
Farmers that sell prepared foods made primarily from raw materials produced on their farms do not need to compete for the specialized spaces. For example, vegetable growers can sell pickles or a grain farmer can make bread. Vendors who do not grow their own ingredients are regulated differently from farmers and there are additional rules for some vendors at the Main Street market due to its location on private property and a preference for allowing participation from existing Main Street shops.
Jodi Low, farmers’ market coordinator II for the City of Santa Monica, said the markets are managed by the city and must therefore comply with local rules regarding solicitation of vendors.
“By providing prepared food vending spaces at a well-attended city-sponsored event, the city of Santa Monica has an obligation to allow access to the vending spaces to any and all interested prepared food vendors on a regular basis through an open application process. In 2010, a request for proposal (RFP) policy for prepared food vendors was developed and implemented with the approval of the Santa Monica City Council,” said a statement sent to market participants on May 22.
The markets have a total of 19 prepared food vendors and about one third of those spots are open for applications each year. Successful vendors can attend a market for three years, at which point the contract expires. Applications are then solicited again and the process repeats. Existing vendors can choose to re-apply for their space but each application period is considered an independent event and all applications are evaluated on the same scale.
Applicants are evaluated on their business location, sustainability, ingredient sourcing, experience and value.
“Submitted proposals are evaluated by a review group and rated each based solely on the information submitted. The review group discusses the proposals and renders a final score for each proposal. Only the top proposals are selected for the highly sought-after spaces in the Santa Monica Farmers’ Markets,” said the letter sent to vendors.
While the market can terminate the contract of any seller that violates market rules, Low said the annual selection process isn’t about expelling existing vendors. She stressed that all the vendors are on a three-year contract with a built-in expiration date. She said the market then makes an objective evaluation of all the applicants for the next three-year cycle and while the market benefits from diversity she acknowledged it can be a difficult process.
At Main Street, a 10-foot-by-20 stall previously occupied by a crepe vendor will be split into two locations; one for Ihsan’s Falafel and the second for Vucacious Catering (Vietnamese food).
Low said the two vendors bring additional value to the market by offering cuisine that is currently absent and while also catering to different diets.
“Selecting vendors that are all vegetarian is very exciting for us,” she said of Ihsan’s.
At the Pico Farmers’ Market, Mis Padres Salsa and Tacos was reappointed to one spot and the second space went to Rockenwagner Bakery. Rockenwagner has participated in other Santa Monica markets in the past but will be new to the Pico neighborhood. The space was formerly occupied by Bistro Laurent.