Market Changes
Agricultural Community Events Farmers Markets has given Cotatiís Thursday market a more inclusive and kid-friendly feel
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By Dave Williams  July 4, 2014 12:00 am

The weekly Cotati Farmers Market has undergone some subtle changes since last year, and thus far, the reviews have been nothing but positive.

The biggest, and perhaps most notable, part of the makeover has been moving the vendors onto the grass in the park rather than them being on the street. It seems to have created a more inclusive atmosphere for the market.

“The most important change we’ve made is bringing the market into the park, into a place the kids can enjoy as well as the adults,” said Kelly Smith, Executive Director of Agricultural Community Events Farmers Markets, which has taken over operation of the entire Thursday night market from the Cotati Chamber of Commerce. “We have the market placed in front of the stage so the music is more a central part of the market where before it was a little dissected. I think that’s been a great benefit to the market.”


Feeling a little more safe

Melissa Casanova, an organic farmer and owner of Suchernova Farm, agreed with Smith. But she also had another reason for liking the changes.

“It’s in the grass, so it feels a little more safe,” Casanova said. “We can enjoy the musicians now, where as before, it was broken up a little bit. It’s a lot better, and there’s room to grow.”

ACEFM, a non-profit organization, also runs farmers markets in Santa Rosa, Marinwood, Petaluma, downtown Novato, Glen Ellen and Fairfax. 

The Cotati Chamber of Commerce initially launched and operated the Thursday night market. But operating the weekly market became too big a burden for the Chamber of Commerce, which sought out ACEFM.


Chamber’s OK with changes

“This was a heavy load to carry, so we were really happy they took us up on this offer,” Chamber president Andre Morrow said. “We like the changes. We tried to make these changes about four years ago, but we got so much resistance to it because of the way we’d been doing it to make the change. When they talked to us about the possibility of doing this, we said, ‘go for it. It’ll be easier for you to make the change than it was for us.’”

The Cotati Chamber of Commerce holds the liquor license for the market and still sells beer and wine.

“We don’t get anything from the market, but we also don’t have to put out all the volunteer hours to put this thing on,” Morrow said. “Like I said, it was getting too much for a volunteer organization to take on by itself.”

One of the problems that has bogged down the Cotati market is a lack of attendance. In years past, it would not be too far of a stretch to say, outside of the vendors, one could count the number of people in the park at the Cotati market on one hand.

The Cotati market through the first three weeks still hasn’t drawn as many people as the Friday night farmers market in Rohnert Park, but vendors have noticed increasingly more foot traffic.


Foot traffic improves

“There’s definitely more traffic, and people seem to like it more,” Casanova said. “And when the people are happy, I’m happy.”

Jeff Whitford, of Bloomfield Bees Honey, said he hasn’t really noticed the changes. His vendor tent can be found at a number of markets in the county. He said it’s still the same small market and that foot traffic has been about the same. But a small market is something he doesn’t mind.

“It’s probably one of our smaller markets, but we like smaller markets because you get to meet the people more personally, so it’s a nicer more friendly atmosphere,” Whitford said.

Smith, along with ACEFM co-owner Jim Fenton, are still looking at ways to improve the market.

“We’d like to add in more local produce, local agriculture, add more vendors into the market so there’s more variety,” she said. “My expectations are for this market to flourish, to have people come and enjoy the local produce and the hot foods that are here, the ambiance of their own community and enjoy music in a safe child friendly environment.”

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