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Market Melodrama

“They’re being told they need criminal background checks. It’s frustrating.”


More than anticipation has filled the air in the days leading up to the inaugural Boise Farmers Market. Vendors say they're just plum frustrated, primarily with City Hall. Facing a Saturday, April 6, grand opening, some say they're just now learning that they need to shell out approximately $200 per person in city of Boise fees to secure a license and undergo a background check.

"Some of these people have sold at the Capital City Public Market for as long as 18 years," Boise Farmers Market Director Karen Ellis told Boise Weekly. "And now, because we're on private property, they're being told they need criminal background checks. It's frustrating, that's for sure."

The vendors were already frustrated enough to pull up stakes from CCPM and move their veggies to BFM after what they said was an awkward balance of art (majority) versus farmers (minority) at CCPM--which is scheduled to open April 20. And after CCPM's board of directors showed Ellis the door in September 2012, the disgruntled vendors quickly convinced her to help start BFM, which will take place on a privately owned parking lot at 11th and Front streets. While vendors at CCPM have been covered for nearly two decades by a special-events license from the city, those that have moved to BFM will need to secure an individual license, costing $88.

The good news is that a license is not required for anyone selling their own products from their farm or garden. The bad news is that anyone working at a booth still has to be covered under a surety bond, costing $100 per person, in addition to undergoing a background check, costing another $30.

"Unfortunately, it looks like some background applications wouldn't be done by [April 6]," said Adam Park, spokesman for Mayor Dave Bieter, who pointed to a Feb. 8 email from the city to two of BFM's officers.

"Your market vendors .. may need individual vendor ... and/or eating and drinking licenses from the City Clerk's Office," wrote Susan Churchman, with the clerk's office.

But in a last-minute plea, vendors have rushed an appeal to City Hall, asking for a grace period so that all the vendors can secure proper licenses and background checks. Park said it was "unlikely" that such a waiver would be granted, adding that it would "not be appropriate to make exceptions." When asked how the city would enforce a decision not to grant the waiver, Park declined to comment.

Undeterred, Ellis said BFM vendors will be out in force April 6, no matter what.

"We're absolutely optimistic that this will be resolved," she said.