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’)
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.