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CUESA Makes Its Case Against Aidells

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On Tuesday, Chuck Nevius penned a quick bit about the controversy surrounding the exit of Aidells from its 17-year-old spot at the Ferry Building. The piece implied that CUESA was giving the longtime sausage vendor the boot because it had fallen victim to a catch-22 and become "too popular," which raised some eyebrows, especially given the nearby presence of the likes of the city's highest-grossing restaurant, two mega-successful coffee vendors (Blue Bottle and the increasingly-Starbucksian Peet's), and as Jonathan Kauffman notes today, the Hershey-owned Scharffen Berger.

Late yesterday, CUESA fired back and issued a statement to clarify its reasons. The lengthy missive is in full after the jump, but the quick version is that all market sellers participate on an annual contract basis, that CUESA doesn't deal with the indoor businesses, and that it was (reasonably) determined Aidells does not meet a number of their new criteria.

From the desk of CUESA executive director Dave Stockdale:

CUESA is a nonprofit organization committed to cultivating a sustainable food system by educating the public about food and agriculture and operating the Ferry Plaza Farmers Market*. Our mission and vision shape our educational programs and market criteria.

All market sellers participate on an annual contract basis, and all are evaluated against numerous criteria. They must reapply every year and no seller is guaranteed readmission. As a result, the makeup of our market changes every year. In preparation for the 2010 farmers’ market, we took a thorough look at all our current sellers seeking readmission and the dozens of new sellers seeking first-time admission.

Our selection criteria have evolved over the 17 years we have been operating the farmers’ market. Our current standards are the result of a multi-year effort to align our mission and vision with our operations – with the goal of providing the San Francisco community with food that is environmentally sound, humane, economically viable and socially just. In late 2007 the CUESA Board of Directors adopted a set of sustainability frameworks for both our farmers and vendors. These frameworks were developed through a year-long process, which included review by our market sellers. They can be found on our website, In early 2009 the CUESA Board put in place a new 4-year strategic plan that committed the organization to using these frameworks to inform and guide policy development, seller support and development, and public education. A scholarship program was established to support sellers interested in attending conferences and training programs where they can learn more about sustainable practices. Our education programs are now focusing on key issues described in the frameworks. Criteria for selecting sellers are based on these frameworks.

In reviewing Aidells Sausage Company, we determined that they did not meet certain current criteria, such as our preference for sellers of local brands and for those with fewer direct marketing opportunities.

Aidells is a story of success. They started with us as a small local company. They are now a national brand with annual sales reported in excess of $20 million, whose products are available in 46 states, including 31 stores in San Francisco and several area farmers markets. We are proud to have been one of the early venues for the company's products and we're thankful to Aidells for helping our market become a success. We see our market as an incubator for local businesses, and we want to use our limited space to provide this same opportunity to other local companies.

* It is important to clarify that we manage only the farmers and other sellers in the market outside of the Ferry Building. CUESA does not determine or manage the shops inside the building; our operations and criteria are separate.

So there.
· Aidells Departing the Ferry Building [~ESF~]
· Hotdogging earns Ferry Plaza booth an ouster [CW Nevius]
[Photo: Flickr]

Ferry Building

1 Ferry Building, San Francisco, CA