Kicked out of a farmers market

It can be hard to sell honey. Farmers markets help. Customers looking for good local produce can buy directly from farmers and beekeepers. So farmers markets are a win-win for sellers and buyers. But what if you are a beekeeper who gets kicked out of your market? Not for selling bad products. Not because the other vendors voted you out. But because you complained that some retailers are buying from food depots, coming to market, and (allegedly) misrepresenting their produce by pretending that they grew what they sold. Well, an Ontario beekeeper and few other producers were thrown out of their market by ‘the board’ because the complainers were ‘dissidents’. (Or as, the board spelled it on their anti-complainer flyers, ‘Disient Members’)

With this poorly written misspelt  propaganda, the board expected members to expel the ‘Disients’ but members didn’t.  The board responded by ignoring the vote, even though the flyer’s headline says “Choose your own outcome!”

This was on the national news here in Canada last night. A beekeeper, a berry farmer, and three others who sell at the Peterborough (Ontario) farmers market were kicked out. According to the news their ‘crime’ was that they went public with a complaint that some members of the farmers market were reselling products they were buying wholesale and allegedly misleading customers by representing the food as stuff that they grew on local farms.

If this is true, it’s pretty sad. The berry farmer and his family have been growing local produce and selling at the market for 27 years. He was expelled. The beekeeper has been packing her own honey and attending the market regularly, but she was also expelled. Allegedly, the market circulated the flyer, above, to all vendors describing the whistle-blowers as dissidents and encouraging other vendors to vote the dissidents out. That’s the way it sounds. Someone misled customers, a small group of legitimate producers called them out, but the market’s managers tossed the complainers out and kept the alleged re-sellers.  I don’t want to get this wrong, so here is what CBC reported:

The farmers market association called a vote in the winter on whether the five farmers who’d spoken out about resellers should be allowed to stay.

In a handout to members — provided to CBC by Manske — the five are described as “dissident members.” The handout warned that failure to eject them means the “campaign of malice continues.”

After the vote was held, Manske was permitted to stay. But the board later overruled that decision and sent a bailiff to each of the five farms with a letter informing the growers of their removal from the market.

Did I read that correctly? A majority of the vendors voted that the people who were defending locally grown food should be allowed to stay, even though they were portrayed as ‘dissidents’  by the market association board’s propaganda. However, the market’s board overruled the democratic decision of the members and sent the bailiff (a court officer) out to the farmers to be sure they got the message that they’d been kicked out. Sounds like a really dysfunctional organization, doesn’t it?

A lot of people go to their local market to buy local produce, thinking that they are supporting local farmers and buying food that wasn’t transported from distant commercial farms. In the case of honey, this is really important for those people who want to buy honey made by local beekeepers. These customers want local honey because it contains pollen that may fight allergies caused by local flowers.

Well, I don’t know how this will end. I don’t know if we have all the facts, but I think that the CBC would have researched this well. I know that if I lived in Peterborough, Ontario, I’d quit going to that market until the board resigned and the expelled producers were invited back. Meanwhile, if I were looking for local honey, I’d head over to the expelled beekeeper’s shop and buy directly from Astrid Manske’s OtonaBee Apiary.

About Ron Miksha

Ron Miksha is a geophysicist who also does a bit of science writing and blogging. Ron has worked as a radio broadcaster, a beekeeper, and is based in Calgary, Alberta, Canada. He has written two books, dozens of magazine and journal articles, and complements his first book, Bad Beekeeping, with a popular blog at www.badbeekeepingblog.com. Ron wrote his most recent book, The Mountain Mystery, for everyone who has looked at a mountain and wondered what miracles of nature set it upon the landscape. For more about Ron, including some cool pictures taken when he was a teenager, please check Ron's site: miksha.com.
This entry was posted in Culture, or lack thereof, Honey, Strange, Odd Stuff and tagged , , . Bookmark the permalink.

10 Responses to Kicked out of a farmers market

  1. susan rudnicki says:

    Wow! this board has damaged a major tenet of the concept of “farmer’s market” and it would NEVER fly in California. This is the first rule of the road that governs the conduct of people selling at our farmer’s markets. It may not find all the scofflaws, but the strong oversight here works hard to ferret out the fakes.

    Liked by 1 person

  2. Truly a sad situation. Our local State Farmers Market provides sheds for local grown as well as separate sheds for resellers. There is a process which local sellers must undergo to screen them for “local grown.” This is done in order to ensure the customer they are buying exactly what they came for – local produce. Somewhere along the way the Market Board you describe has lost sight of the needs of the customers. Sad indeed.

    Liked by 1 person

  3. susan rudnicki says:

    I read the verbage of the flyer the market gave out to member vendors, soliciting their “votes” to follow one of 3 paths to discipline the “dissidents” The choices A, B, and C are highly prejudicial, biased, and designed to inflame hysteria against those trying to protect integrity in the food market. Who ARE these corrupted board officials? Just one of the “guidelines” is revealing— “market will still be sabotaged by vendors with their own agenda” Whaaaat?? that is the corrupting case already….”Public relations will be necessary” ??? I should say—how is the market going to overcome the wide and deep investigation of some of their floozy members by the news media. Trucks were followed, packaging from far flung, non-producer owned sources noted, lies by buyers recorded. http://www.cbc.ca/news/business/farmers-markets-lies-marketplace-1.4306231

    Liked by 2 people

  4. Anonymous says:

    Outrageous!

    Like

  5. Maryam Halcrow says:

    Sounds like when the market starts up again in spring…… The evicted producers need to protest the lies. They need to make sure every member of the public attending knows it is no longer a farmers market but reseller market. Good luck with any corrective and explanatory action.

    Like

    • savedandsmiling says:

      Indeed, that is a good idea. This is very upsetting that these people were labeled dissidents because they did the right thing. This is the era of what is good is considered bad, and what is bad is considered good.

      Like

  6. Erik says:

    I look forward to the follow-up that clarifies the status and public response. Sounds like a bad situation all around.

    Like

  7. Li says:

    The ousted farmers should start their own market and call it The Dissident Farmer’s Market. I’ll bet they would do very well.

    Like

  8. Anonymous says:

    Actually every honey has a very distinctive foot print , if they bought it at a depot it most likely being dumped on the Canadian market or South America both heavily loaded with all kinds of drug , a test can be done to validate the origin , they have done it in France and Germany , should it be the case then it is more relevant to international fraud , incidentally the largest importer of such honey wasd actually from Canada with a German Co , some look at honey as small business
    It is actually a multi billions dollar business . Joel

    Like

    • Ron Miksha says:

      Thanks. You raise some interesting points. Although various honey samples may have “a very distinctive footprint” that does not necessarily point to the exact country or region of origin and the test is expensive. The main point of this blog post regards misrepresentation, which would be problematic even if the honey were local, and the high-handed treatment of the whistle-blowers (who were supported by a majority of fellows sellers but were thrown out by the board). I don’t think that international fraud was involved. Your assertion that the largest importer of circumvented honey was Canadian is wrong. Have you seen this piece? Avoidance of $180,000,000 in anti-dumping. You may also find this article enlightening.

      Like

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