The Royale Hare speaks out – Karen’s letter to Supervisor Carillo

Dear Supervisor Carrillo,

 

I am writing to you out of concern for what is happening to the Santa Rosa Farmers Market. I live in your district, District 5, and have done so for 28 years, and in Sonoma County since 1966. When you were running for election to the Sonoma County Board of Supervisors you came to my door and told me you wanted to represent the under served individuals and small businesses in District 5, among other things. That is why I voted for you. That is why I am asking for your help.

 

I own a small business with no employees. My studio is in my home, and I sell by mail order, online orders, wholesale, 4 yarn, wool and knitting shows a year, and at the Santa Rosa Farmers Market. I have been a vendor at the Santa Rosa Farmers Market for 21 years. At least one third of my business comes from the farm market. I usually work 10 hours a day with maybe 1 1/2 days off per week. I work very hard to promote my business which includes bringing customers into the farm market. Many of my customers have been referred to me at the farm market my contacts and other customers. I have a good reputation. The farm market is my retail outlet since I do not have a store.

 

The County of Sonoma has incorrectly given a contract for the farmers market located at the Santa Rosa Veteran’s Building to a newly formed group, Redwood Empire Farm Market. I say it was done incorrectly because the Regional Parks office skipped at least one step, stopped communicating with the Santa Rosa Farm Market with whom it was in contract talks, and awarded the contract to a man, Rob Cary, who had not legally established the Redwood Empire Farm Market nor was vetted in any manor.

 

The Regional Parks office says it stopped communicating due to a conversation between the Santa Rosa Farm Market manager and contact, Paula Downing, and Regional Parks office employee Sabrina Spear. Ms. Spear says she was verbally told the Santa Rosa Farm Market had found another location and was no longer interested in renting the space in question by Paula Downing. A statement Paula Downing says is un-true. In a conversation with Ms. Spear, on Monday, March 12, 2012 after I made two calls to her, she told me Paula Downing said to her on the phone that we had another location and were no longer interested in renting the parking lot at the Santa Rosa Veteran’s building. A statement Ms. Downing says in un-true. It is a she said – she said situation. I asked Ms. Spear what were the requirements a group needed to have and present to be eligible for this contract? There was no answer, just silence. I asked the same question again. Once again there was no response. Then I said “There are no requirements?” Dead silence.

 

I believe Paula Downing when she says she did not tell Ms. Spear we had another location and were no longer interested. I believe Ms. Downing because it isn’t plausible for a number of reasons.

 

First, we had no space.

 

Second, on February 11 and 18th our Board of Directors were polling the members as to their preferences regarding whether to move one or both markets or try to stay. The preference was overwhelmingly for the Saturday market to stay at the Veteran’s Building. The results were less clear regarding the Wednesday market. Plainly, it would have been silly for the Board of Directors or any of the market’s paid employees to spend any time taking such a poll if we had a new location.

 

Third, on February 13, 2012 market founder and treasurer Charles Stark left a voice message with the Regional Parks Department and with the Supervisors stating the market wanted to sign its contract for the 2012/2013 year and requested a meeting to secure this. On February 15, the market Board of Directors drafted a letter in response to the Regional Parks Department’s letter dated February 9. Our letter stated “at no time in the course of our discussions with you or anyone in your agency was an authorized representative of the Santa Rosa Farmer’s Market indicated that we were not interested in continuing our arrangement to sent the Veteran’s Building”. The letter also requested a meeting with the Regional Parks Department and Supervisor Zane to clear up any misunderstanding. On February 17, 2012 this letter was emailed to Caryl Hart’s office, we have proof of emailing, and hard copies were mailed to the Regional Parks Department and all Sonoma County Supervisors on February 18, 2012. Again it would be plain silly for anyone to go to this much effort if we planned on moving.

 

On Tuesday March 13, 2012 I attended the Board of Supervisors meeting and was in the group in the hall discussing the problem and asking questions of Caryl Hart, after Supervisor Zane told us we could talk to her in the hall. I asked what requirements Mr. Cary or anyone had to meet to be awarded this or another contract with Sonoma County? Caryl Hart said Mr. Cary didn’t need to provide anything to the county since she knew him How can I get to know Caryl Hart? No vetting was done, no proof of legal entity provided nor the ability to run a farm market. In the same hallway meeting, Lesley Brabyn, who is the secretary for our Board of Directors, was trying to ask questions of Caryl Hart and Ms. Hart continually interrupted Lesley despite Lesley continually asking her to stop interrupting and let Lesley finish her statement. Ms. Hart continually demonstrated poor professional skills; in fact I have never seen less.

 

February 23, 2012 the farm market was informed that the contract for the Veteran’s Building’s parking lot had been awarded to another party.

 

The County of Sonoma was in contract discussions with the Santa Rosa Farm Market up to February 10, 2012 when the county stopped communicating with the market. No deadline dates were ever provided. Meetings and communications that should have taken place were just dropped by the County of Sonoma. Yet, communications continued with Rob Cary who is a person know to Caryl Hart well enough to waive requirements. On the day of signing Mr. Cary had not set up his non-profit corporation, gotten a DBA, written bylaws, elected a Board of Directors, applied for permits and certificates required to run a farm market. The Regional Parks Department made a special set of rules and regulations for Mr. Cary.

 

I am asking for justice. I do not now what has to be done to break Mr. Cary’s contract. I do know there are 150 families depending on this farm market. I do know how hard we have worked to build up good will in the community, how hard we have worked to bring people into the market, how we have instituted a process enabling individual members to accept vouchers from Cal Fresh (formerly known as food stamps), hosts periodic “Food as Medicine” booths where local family physicians answer questions from the public, is collaborating with the Vista Family Health Center of Santa Rosa to teach how to prepare healthy meals for pregnant women at risk for gestational diabetes, and much more. I know that allowing another entity to run a farm market at this location is ROBBING me and the rest of the market of all our hard work. It’s not fair. It’s wrong.

 

This problem is giving Sonoma County a black eye. It is negative publicity. It is in the best interest of the county to admit its fault. A farm market is there for the community. All my customers, the community, have said they will not patronize a different farm market at this location. At this time 78 out of 85 vendors at last Saturday’s market say they will not join a new market. With a no vendors customers will not come which results in there not being much revenue to pay the rent. That does not make sense.

 

Please help me. Thank you for your time.

 

Sincerely,

 

Karen Emrey

719 Agnew Pl

Santa Rosa, CA 95401

 

 

Karen Emrey

Royale Hare

707-579-2344

www.royalehare.com

karen@royalehare.com

exquisite hand dyed yarn and fiber