Farmers’ Market Faces Increased Oversight After Discovery of Improper Oil Disposal

This past week, the Retail Committee, a coalition of UC San Diego representatives and Price Center vendors held its first meeting of the year to discuss enforcement of regulatory changes to the farmers’ market. This is after the recent discovery of improper oil disposal by unidentified market vendors and concerns raised by Price Center businesses on the discrepancies between their own contractual limitations with UCSD and the agreements with the weekly vendors. The possibility of relocation and more rigorous environmental guidelines are among the issues that will continue to be debated at future meetings.

The meeting primarily focused on the extent of the university’s oversight of the farmers’ market and lack thereof. A key determinant to the discussion was the fact that there have been no formal agreements of memorandums of understanding between the university and the market vendors in the past. The primary concern brought up by Price Center vendors, who are under contract, is that the market offers similar food options and therefore lower the Price Center vendors’ sales.  

The committee served as a platform to provide vendors, UC officials, and students with the opportunity to open an ongoing dialogue intended on effacing any ambiguity on the terms and conditions between all those involved.     

Daron Woods, Associated Students transfer senator, the student representative at the committee, reported to the UCSD Guardian on what he believes are some of the main concerns that will be further debated.

“Personally I really like the farmers’ market, and I would be a lot more comfortable if UCSD and the farmers’ market were working together to ensure that they were not inappropriately dumping waste,” Woods said. “I would like to see the farmer’s market grow and thrive, so I definitely think the changes worked out with the farmers’ market will be for the benefit of everyone.”

Last year’s report of the prohibited dumping of oil used by food vendors was brought to the attention of university departments responsible for overseeing the weekly market.

Though food vendors may not have been assigned meticulous instructions on how to dispose of any accumulated waste, the Guardian was told it was made clear that leftover food is their responsibility to discard off campus and that the vendors need to use proper disposal techniques. When no vendors came forward as the ones posing the environmental hazard, the university threatened to enact strict punitive measures, going as far as closing down the farmers’ market altogether if the improper dumping were to continue.

Since the reports were filed though, food vendors have demonstrated total compliance with UCSD regulatory guidelines.

Another topic that was mentioned at the committee meeting was the possibility of relocating the farmers’ market. The area would need to be entirely asphalt, vastly limiting the options available. The few areas large enough are predominantly parking lots, which raised concerns about reducing the already-limited number of available parking spaces.

Another option considered was Library Walk. Though it is an area designated for student organizations, a significant portion of the millions of dollars in annual revenue from the farmers’ market is collected by the university to fund the Center for Student Involvement and the Bookstore, serving as a benefit for the student body as a whole.

The possibility of relocation is still in question, and many of the final decisions will be taking place at the next meeting.    

Tom Bonetati, director of trademark and licensing for the UCSD Bookstore Office spoke with the Guardian on the importance of having changes in oversight be a unified effort.

“We’re always looking for student collaboration, and campus and staff and faculty involvement as well, so we welcome as much feedback regarding changes to the farmers’ market as people would like to see,” he stated. “It’s very popular, it’s increasing in volume every single week.”

The article has been updated to clarify that of the millions of dollars that the farmers’ market makes in revenue, a significant portion of that amount goes to the university. Of the money collected by UCSD, most is then given to the Center for Student Involvement and the Bookstore. Previously,