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New Management Likely for Westwood Village Farmers Market

The Westwood Village Improvement Association will consider naming Raw Inspiration the market's new operator at its next Board meeting.

After five years of unchanged management, operational responsibilities at the might soon be placed in someone else’s hands.

The Westwood Village Improvement Association is currently considering a change in management at the market, with the Board of Directors scheduled to weigh in at a Sept. 20 meeting.

Rumors have been swirling about the market’s future, including those regarding where it will be located, which vendors will remain and if there will be any change in prices.

Messages that claim to be from market management have been posted on the market's Facebook page calling the potential change "an unnecessary takeover attempt." Posts on the page encourage the community to support the farmers market in its current form.

Eric Norton, WVIA assistant to the executive director, said the organization decided to consider new management as a way to improve the market after hearing that some desired more fresh produce and a better mix of vendors.

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In May, the WVIA solicited responses from farmers market managers in the form of a Request for Proposal (RFP) "to ask them, 'How would you run the market if you were in charge?" Norton said.

One response from a company called Raw Inspiration was received, Norton said, but the current market manager, Steve Whipple, did not respond.

"(Whipple) had every chance to respond to the RFP," Norton said.

A Board subcommittee later recommended Raw Inspiration fill the market operator role. 

A recent post on the market’s Facebook page, which claims to be written by Westwood Village Farmers Market management, said the option to submit a proposal "was not an appropriate offer or a reasonable request."

"Our investment of hard work, cooperation with Village merchants and money spent leads us to believe that the Westwood Village Farmers Market is not something we should apply for; it is something we have built and own—alongside the general community," according to the Facebook post.

WVIA Executive Director Andrew Thomas said rumors the current operator has been evicted are untrue.

"We would have been delighted to hear (Whipple’s) response, [but] he made a decision not to respond," he said.

Raw Inspiration runs markets throughout Los Angeles, including those in Brentwood, Century City and Pacific Palisades. If Raw Inspiration is chosen as the Westwood Village Farmers Market operator, much of the vendors will remain the same, Norton said.

"We don’t want a ton of turnover," Norton said. "No one’s trying to displace (the vendors)."

Costs at the market could go up or down, Thomas said, remarking on claims prices would rise.

The WVIA hopes the market, which will remain on Broxton Avenue regardless of who’s in charge, will become more popular under new management.

"We want it to be … more of a draw for people," Norton said. "Right now … not a lot of people know it’s out there."

Steve Whipple could not be reached for comment.

Are you in favor of new farmers market management? Tell us in the comments section below.

JE September 11, 2012 at 04:58 PM
I've been a patron of Farmers' Markets in Los Angeles over the years & got to know many of the vendors, and am familiar of the charges they get with Raw Inspiration at other markets. I'd take Whipple anytime over Raw Inspiration if you really want the farmers or the small businesses to make a living. That's what part of the objective of having a famers' market is for, right? It wouldn't make any sense if you charge them exhorbitant fees compared to other markets managed by other companies, and they'd have to pass that on to the public. If that's the case, I'll go elsewhere & stick to the farmers' markets like Hollywood, North Hollywood, etc.
John Edwards September 11, 2012 at 11:21 PM
John Edwards, President of Raw Inspiration. What a coincidence that the initials of the first comment are JE, my own. If we charged such exorbitant fees, why would farmers join our waiting list to sell at one (or more) of our 20 plus certified farmers' markets? When we first started, over a decade ago, many of our original farmers had just a few acres and only had enough produce for one market. Today, many of them are in five, six or more of our markets, as well as other non Raw Inspiration operated markets and they are thriving. We helped them thrive, and good luck to them!
Jason p. February 21, 2013 at 10:07 PM
Jason P. I am a vendor at several farmers markets and I"m aware from several fellow vendors that "Raw Inspirations" does not care about their farmers or vendors, they are only interested in collecting there stall fees from these hard working people. The fees that "Raw Inspirations" charges can be as high as $300 for hot prepared food vendors, and if it rains they demand payment even if the vendor does not set up. In my opinion, "Raw Inspirations" only cares about "Raw Inspirations", not the hard working farmers or vendors. And to John Edwards, if you did not already know, several farmers markets have long waiting lists not just "Raw Inspirations".

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