By MARTIN ESPINOZA
THE PRESS DEMOCRAT
The Santa Rosa Original Certified Farmers Market announced Thursday that it will relocate to the south parking area of the Wells Fargo Center for the Performing
Arts on May 19.
The market decided to move from its current location at the Santa Rosa Veterans Memorial Building after Sonoma County officials ended the market’s lease in a dispute over higher costs.
The county has rented the space to the newly formed Redwood Empire Farmer’s Market, which is partly made up of former and current vendors of the Original Farmers Market.
“We found a new home,” said Lesley Brabyn, secretary for the Original Farmers market. “We’re absolutely thrilled to be part of Wells Fargo Center for the Arts. Their commitment to the community is a good match for our purposes and our mission as well.”
The market’s vendors will be notified of the move by regular mail, email and through fliers this weekend.
“We are thrilled to have the market coming here,” said Peggy Mulhall, director of business partnerships and community relationships for Wells Fargo Center. “They are a 40-year-old community treasure and we are a 30-year-old community treasure.”
Mulhall said that negotiations between the two parties began in mid-March and that a one-year rental agreement was signed on Wednesday.
The Original Farmers Market said it would hold all special events at the new location, including Farm Animal Day, Heirloom Tomato Tasting and Honor the Gravenstein Apple Day.
County officials said that since 2002 they have been giving the market a rent break worth $156,000 compared to the standard rate for the facility. The market’s rent was supposed to increase in 2009, but the county gave it a three-year reprieve.
The market’s rent this summer was to increase from $23,875 a year to $57,660, a 140 percent increase market representatives said was too onerous.
Brabyn that Wells Fargo is charging $33,204 for about the same space but “many more amenities.”
Mulhall said the market also will complement the new hospital that Sutter Health is building.
The Original Farmers Market has operated every Wednesday, from 8:30 a.m. to noon, and Saturday, from 8:30 a.m. to 1 p.m. The new market at the Wells Fargo Center will have the same schedule.
Brabyn said she expects that about 75 percent of the market’s current vendors will move to the new location. The Original Farmers Market has a maximum of about 90 vendors operating on any given day.
Rob Cary, president and spokesman for the Redwood Empire Farmers Market, said his operation has already taken applications and fees from 40 vendors, some of them new farmers looking to sell their products.
Cary said the Redwood Empire market would be in place at the Veterans building parking as soon as the Original Farmers Market leaves, and that there would be no gap in service.
Cary wished the new market well.
“I hope that they both thrive,” he said. “I am happy to hear that there are two markets in Santa Rosa. It’s really important that we support local farmers and that we have them feeding as many people as possible.”