The day before the Los Altos Village Association canceled the June 18 Los Altos Farmers’ Market, Roli Roti was preparing to sell approximately 150 rotisserie chickens at that Thursday’s event. Instead, the veteran Bay Area-based food truck operation had to scramble to find another location, settling on a slot at DeMartini Orchard on San Antonio Road. The driver didn’t have to lose his hours, and the company could salvage some of the sales for the day.
If not for banking on 18 years’ worth of relationships, Roli Roti would have had to do what some other vendors did that Thursday – take a financial hit because they could not set up in Los Altos. Vendors had already prepared fresh foods and fruits, but they were given only a day’s notice that the market would not be taking place. Many farmers’ markets around the Bay Area are still closed due to the pandemic – and those that are open are booked – so finding another spot on short notice was out of the question for many vendors.
Roli Roti prepares its chickens for sale the day before, to ensure maximum shelf life. The chickens are seasoned, spiced and skewered before being loaded onto the trucks. At $15.30 each, Roli Roti makes approximately $2,300 off chickens alone per day at the Los Altos market.
“We’ve had situations before where we donated food, but this was a lot,” said Paul Fitzpatrick, a retail sales manager. “That’s a big market. The short notice was rough.”
Back in business
The market returned June 25 in Los Altos after a one-week hiatus. LAVA canceled the previous week’s market after taking issue with the California Farmers’ Market Association’s handling of an incident involving a vendor at the Livermore Farmers’ Market earlier this month. CFMA hosts farmers’ markets across the state, including seasonal markets in Los Altos.
CFMA Executive Director Gail Hayden allegedly told a vendor at the market to stop handing out rainbow flags for LGBTQ Pride Month because it was a violation of CFMA policy. CFMA officials said they requested the vendor distribute the flags in the market’s “free speech” area. A video of the incident was widely shared on social media. CFMA stepped down from managing the Livermore Farmers’ Market following the incident, which Hayden later apologized for.
In a brief statement June 22, LAVA said it had met with CFMA and that the market would return June 25.
“Please support the vendors that bring us wonderful produce,” the statement ended.
LAVA officials did not respond to multiple requests for additional comment on why the market was brought back. LAVA president Mark Rogge wrote in a strongly worded memo June 17 that the LAVA board was “taking a firm stance against the sort of hatred expression by the CFMA” after unanimously deciding to cancel the next day’s market.
“I’m personally supportive of the decision,” said Los Altos City Councilwoman Jeannie Bruins June 18. “We need to make sure we’re being supportive of our own businesses. I’m hoping it’s just a one-week pause. But I think they made the right decision and I think they were very thoughtful about it.”
Fitzpatrick said he didn’t agree or disagree with LAVA’s decision.
“I hope more than anything else, there were lessons that were learned,” Fitzpatrick said. “There’s more to it than one incident, there’s more to it than one just one viral video. It’s a crazy time.”
Fitzpatrick added that LAVA gave advance notice that the market was back on last week and will remain open indefinitely. He got the impression that they knew the previous week’s cancellation was too abrupt. But he hopes the drama of the past few weeks will lead to a positive impact moving forward.
“We lost a day,” Fitzpatrick said. ”Hopefully, what that leads to is a much stronger situation overall. If that happens, to an extent, it was worth it.”