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Monday, September 10, 2007

Windmill Farms Needs Your Help

San Ramon Windmill Farms
Letter from Windmill Farms

Dear Friends, Family, and Valued Customers,

We here at Windmill Farms have been faced with a devastating problem. After almost 34 years servicing the San Ramon Valley, The Contra Costa Environmental Health Services, will financially force us to go out of business if something is not done. Contra Costa Health Services wants us to remove products that have been sold here since Windmill Farms first opened its doors in 1974. These products include all bulk food items (grains, nuts, dried fruits, etc.) and the cut produce (i.e. watermelons, pineapples, etc.). On top of these demands, we have been told to build a fully enclosed structure by August 2008 or be forced with legal actions.

Windmill Farms has never had any health related issues that would be a cause for any concern. We have always put the safety of our customers and employees first.

Windmill Farms has tried numerous times to solve this matter quietly through meetings with both the City of San Ramon and Contra Costa Environmental Health Services. All our attempts have failed. Now it is time for us to speak up and defend our way of life. An administrative hearing conducted by Contra Costa Health Services on July 17, 2007 lead to a ruling to discontinue the sale of our various products and fully enclose our business. We question their logic or fairness for our business to bide by there ruling when farmers markets are permitted to operate throughout the area, selling cut produce and other prepared foods in an open-air environment. It is our belief, that the Contra Costa Health Services has made it their mission since 1997 to shut us down. Now they are in the position to do just that. We believe that the time has come for everyone to be made aware of this situation we are in, which threatens to force us out of business after almost 34 years.

We have also tried to get the City of San Ramon to help us out in this matter but we feel they have turned their backs on us now that there are plans to redevelop this entire area north of Crow Canyon Rd. with a specific plan that is limited to a mixed-use only environment (housing, retail mix). It is our belief that by Windmill Farms being gone it will be a starting point for implementation of their specific plan.

For those of you that are new to the Windmill Farms family, we are one of the last open air markets in the area. We have been in this community since long before there was even a City of San Ramon. We are family owned and operated and have been since 1974. We have always tried our best to bring the freshest, tastiest, and local products around. We have employed hundreds of employees over our almost 34 years in business as well as supported numerous local farmers.

Now we are forced to ask for the help of our customers, friends, and community. We are asking for you to send letters, make phone calls, and voice your opinions to everyone. Get everyone involved, including News Media, local and state Government. Please help us preserve our small business that has been a part of the community for decades. If we are to go who will be next?

Thank you for all of your support,

The Smith Family
Windmill Farms
www.windmillfarmsproduce.com


Granny Smith Apples

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9 comments:

jennifer said...

This is a sham. How can this be? Here in San Ramon the city turning thier backs? Yes it is true, the city turn thier back from every if a dollar is involved. Look at all the mom and pop stores...going going...gone. I remember when theree were lots of nurserys around. What happened to them? Home Depot. Now the city has a farmers market on it land...Get out Windmill you are no longer needed. Yup thats the City of San Ramon out with the good in with the junk. Let rally to help the Smith Family...It is time people stand up for what is good for San Ramon.

Rick T. said...

Unfortunately, Windmill Farms has no one to blame but itself.

They were issued a permit to operate their establishment under accepted food safety conditions imposed by Contra Costa County. Windmill Farms expanded its business in violation of its permit and did not receive approval from the County to do so. The County bears responsibility for lax enforcement, but, ultimately, Windmill Farms is the violator.

Because this issue involves food safety, there is absolutely no reason why the County could allow an exception for allowing an exception to such standards. After all, Windmill Farms competitors are subject to the same standards.

In summary, this is public health and safety issue. Windmill Farms should be held to the same standards every comparable business is held to.

Ben Franklin said...

Rick, I don't agree with you. The county is not holding the same standards to everyone.

San Ramon has been operating another open air market at Forest Home Farms all summer. In fact, the city is calling Forest Home Farms a Farmers Market. Everything that Windmill Farms is doing, Forest Home Farms is also doing with their Farmers Market. Numerous other establishments also are doing the same thing as Windmill Farms. Whole Foods has outdoor fruits and vegetables all the time. I guess you would not see any of these others as exceptions?

As far as the health related issues and food safety that you talk about are concerned, I guess fruits and vegetables don't grow outdoors? Give me a break on this. Windmill Farms is actually being unfairly targeted. The county is not holding all the competitors to the same standards.

The San Ramon city powers, being the City Council members would like nothing better than to shut down Windmill Farms. Then they could use their eminent domain powers to allow a developer to scarf the land up for the Redevelopment Agency which is made up of the same 5 City Council members.

If the city council really was on the side of Windmill Farms they would stand up to the unfair treatment of Windmill Farms. But instead, they look the other way with Mayor H. Abram Wilson stating, "... They have to work that out with the county."

If the mayor and the city council really wanted to stand up for what is right, they could go to bat for Windmill Farms.

Farmer Joe said...

Unfotunatly Rick you have the wrong information. Windmill Farms has not changed there operations. They have been carrying the same products since 1974. And pemits for Windmill Farms are for retail market. It is posted clearly for everyone to see. If there was a health or safty problem then the farmers markets should all be shut down along with Whole Foods, Safeway, Lucky's, Lunardi's, Trader Joes, Costco, and many others. All have produce outside. Farmers markets sell fish and meat outside. So for you "Rick T." to say these about Windmill Farms you must work for the city or County.

Rosalind Rogoff said...

Rick is right and the rest of you are wrong. Windmill Farms is not a Certified Farmers' Market. It is a retail store and it is processing food without an approved kitchen. That's a Contra Costa County requirement. All Windmill needs to do is build an enclosed kitchen for processing it's produce. All of the markets you list have enclosed, licensed, approved kitchens. Windmill doesn't. Read the correct information in the Observer, http://www.sanramonobserver.org/Commentary.html.

Roz

Jason Smith said...

Sorry Roz your information is not correct. We have an enclosed kitchen/prep. room that was built in 2000 by the order of Contra Costa Health Sevices former director Ken Stuart. We also have food handlers licenses to cut our produce. The California retail Food Code also has a "grandfather clause" that any open-air market in buseness prior to Jan. 1 1985 DOES NOT have to fully enclose.We have sold the same products and have cut produce since 1974.You will find more information on our website including the current health codes. www.windmillfarmsproduce.com

Rosalind Rogoff said...

Jason,

Thank you for providing additional information. I shall stop by tommorow, if possible, to get more of your side of the story. I try to keep my facts correct and updated. If I'm wrong, I make corrections in red so everyone knows it.

Roz

Herman D said...

'Rick t.' must work for the developers who are trying to squeeze Windmill Farms out of their space via misguided legal shenanigans. All the permits and process are open to review, and show Windmill Farms is in the right, and is being specifically targeted for their location.

Anonymous said...

It's the almighty dollar again. I wonder who's getting a kick back, who wants the property. Just look around the surrounding area. There's probably someone in the San Ramon city govt. that's getting paid under the table to remove Windmill Farms!

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