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.