Concerns over Walla Walla Farmers' Market need to be resolved

Those involved with the open-air market have agreed to talk, and that's a positive step.


The internal conflict at the Farmers' Market -- vendors vs. management vs. vendors vs. board members -- has become a public issue because it threatens the future of the outdoor event at Fourth Avenue and Main Street.

The conflict has become so emotional and heated that City Manager Nabiel Shawa is considering not renewing the Farmers' Market lease and seeking requests for a new operator. The market is on city property so it is a matter that can be legitimately addressed by the city manager or City Council.

But the threat of city intervention combined with some frank talk from vendors, management and board members at a meeting Monday night seems to have created an opportunity to resolve the concerns and move forward.

Given that the market now has 100 vendors, not all share the same concerns. But at Monday's meeting a small group of vendors brought up a number of areas to address, including setting term limits for board members, establishing a more open system to voice complaints, a yearly management review, greater access for financial statements and more marketing. The manager, Beth-Aimee McGuire, is also in the crossfire of the debate. Some support her and others do not.

Ultimately, the board members and vendors seemed to come to agreement on one matter -- they want to resolve the issues between them and continue with the market.

"We have gone from 20 people (vendors). Now we are over 100 people. We got growing pains ... We want to make it work, but it is a two-way situation. And we really appreciated the input tonight," Board President Ron Courson said at Monday's meeting.

It is important for the community these differences be resolved. The weekend Farmers Market that runs from spring to fall is a wonderful experience for locals and visitors.

Over the past 16 years the market has become part of Walla Walla's fabric. It must remain.

The city of Walla Walla should consider giving the current market board a one-year extension on the lease. This should be contingent on the current board and manager coming up with a concrete plan to improve communications and resolve issues.

If the bickering and tumult continue at the Farmers' Market to the point the situation is unsalvageable, the city can then move forward with finding a new operator.

Let's hope it doesn't come to that. Progress had already been made in resolving differences when those involved agreed to talk.


oneStarman 2 years, 10 months ago

Putting something off till 'Next Time' is NOT finding a solution. It is just pretending that if we close our eyes our problems will go away. The Farmers Market IS the vendors who sell there and if they have problems with Management; then the solution is obvious.


DeadDawg 2 years, 10 months ago

UB writes:"But Walla Walla Sweet Onion vendor and market board member Bud Locati said Saturday searching for a new operator could do more harm than good. If the current market operators were not granted the contract, he said he would not be likely to remain under other management. He believes other growers may share his perspective." I read: johnny was poutin' and threatened to take his pals with him off the play ground...booo hoo dude. I read in an earlier article: little johnny authorized a tow of a vehicle when cops REGULARLY run plates and contact owners to move the vehicles before the market opens. Usually the 'bad' cars are corvettes, a few Jags, or Maseratis, but all are from outside the area and under the cover of the park canopy. Wowsie, the cops can find a cell number and contact the out of town owner to move the vehicle but cannot contact a vendor? Bullpucky on the boards false promises, and I am Skippin' with joy to think that the City has finally got a brain. The current contract should not be extended more than a yr. Actions are valued more than words by honest people.


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