The Public Need for the Farmers Market

The article, ‘Race Woes in Farmers’ Market Move?’ in the October 17 edition of the Independent highlighted Santa Barbara City Councilmember Oscar Gutierrez’s obsession with the ethnic composition and union membership status of farmers selling at the S.B. Farmer’s Market and of the gender and ethnic composition and income status of the market’s Board of Directors.

The article stated that market director Sam Edelman requested that the City Council appoint Councilmembers Kristen Sneddon and Eric Friedman to the committee based upon the good working relationship the market enjoyed with them. The council also selected Councilmember Meagan Harmon. In his childish “sour grapes” reaction to not being selected by the City Council to serve as one of three councilmembers on the market’s relocation committee, he stated, “It seems as if the farmers have only lobbied white members of the council.”

Per the article, Councilmember Gutierrez made issue with Sam Edelman’s non-response to his request for this irrelevant demographic data, including how many farmers live in the city. Edelman wisely opted not to provide this irrelevant data, stating, as quoted in the article, “I don’t want to go there.”

When does the irrelevant quest for “diversity” end? Should the S.B. Farmer’s Market Board of Directors be comprised of a prescribed number of Asians, Pacific Islanders, blacks, people of Greek or Armenian heritage, Muslims, Jews, Catholics, agnostics, atheists, albinos, the ADA-eligible, dwarfs, and people taller than 6’6”? The relevant elements of a board of directors are the talents, commitment, and experience of its members.

Perhaps Councilmember Gutierrez was not selected to serve on the market’s relocation committee due to his obsession with the non-issues of ethnic composition, income status, and union membership. His fixation on these issues is outrageous! He perpetuates the archaic mentality of “us vs. them.” The market is not a “white people’s market.” It is not a “rich people’s market.” The market, beloved by the 7,000 members of our community who signed petitions requesting that the market remain at its present location, serves the entire community. The ethnicity, gender, and income levels of the market’s board of directors, the union/non-union status of the farmers’ workers, and the local vs. out-of-town location of the farms have no relevance and are of no consequence to the operation of the market and to the high degree to which the public is served by the market.

Councilmember Gutierrez, in his statement that he “was elected to serve the public safety interests of city residents, not outside businesses,” indicates that he is clueless regarding his obligation and responsibilities to the residents of Santa Barbara. He refers to the non-S.B.-resident farmers selling at the S.B. Farmers Market as “outside businesses.” These so-called “outside businesses” are a component of the collective farmers selling at the market, all of whom serve the residents of Santa Barbara. Councilmember Gutierrez, you were elected to serve all of the public needs of city residents!

Councilmember Gutierrez, grow up and stop creating false and divisive issues, especially regarding the S.B. Farmers Market’s struggle to find a new home. Embrace the long-standing motto of the United States of America, emblazoned on U.S. coins and the $1 bill: “E Pluribus Unum,” which means “Out of Many, One.”

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