[Market-farming] (no subject)

darnell erickson darnellerickson at yahoo.com
Sat Apr 23 07:43:37 EDT 2011

I am looking for suggestions for a course of action from the members of this group....(and maybe a little sympathy too).....or a mild whack in the side of the head if I need it....(perhaps I am missing the bigger picture)  
Every year our market must get approval to operate from the local Board of Health.  Our market has grown from 6 full time vendors to nearly 40 in the past 10 years, and the Board of Health has chosen to require us to list every vendor and what they sell on our permit request.  In the past the Board has expressed concern that permitting sales of certain items (such as smoked fish, chocolates) created unfair competition for local businesses because we are being allowed a variance as a farmers market when it comes to building, structures and facilities (we are an open air market).
Over the past few years one very vocal member of the board has expressed his concern over the things being offered at the market, saying that "nothing should be offered for sale at a farmers market that hasn't been grown in the ground and picked by a farmer".  This gentleman is now Chairman of the Board.  While stating that the "bell has been rung, and cannot be unrung" he then went on to attack Yarn and Soap offered at the market saying they are not Farm Products.  When challenged with the facts that the yarn was being made from locally shorn sheep and being spun at the market itself (mostly as an attractive educational booth for the kids) he said he'd "yield 50% on the yarn because sheep live on farms, but I don't care if its on a spinning wheel or a butane torch it's still not something that should be at a farmers market"  As to the soap (I am one of the soap makers), our Market Manager told him that Soap was a farm product and offered at many
 farmers markets.  He responded that just because others are doing it does not make it right.  He went on to state that he would lay long odds that nothing in the soap at our market came from a farm.  He warned us that he has seen the market grow further and further from his concept of a Farmers Market, and we should be very aware of that in the future.  Despite all of this, the board voted unanimously to grant our permit (and has in fact done so for the past 18 years.)
Our bylaws require that 50% of our vendors are produce, 25% horticultural, 25% processed goods/other".  All of our vendors are required to grow/produce within our county.  Besides yarn and soap, both of which are side products of produce vendors, we have vendors offering baked goods, smoked fish (locally caught and prepared), herbed oils and vinegars, lobsters, cut flowers and arrangements, worm composters, worm tea, worm castings (one vermiculture vendor), lavender sachets, honey, beeswax candles,
I have sent out a copy of the Board of Health meeting video to all of the market members and have invited them to join me at the Public Comment portion of the next BOH meeting to help educate the board and stand up for ourselves.  Our market manager and board president has suggested that we let sleeping dogs lie because we have to get this permit every year.  I am concerned that the dog seems to be waking up and growling and is about to bite me in the A**.
When this reared its head two years ago I presented them with data regarding the USDA market, it's vendors and products, our state's Ag Dept's managed markets and their vendors and products, as well as data on the products at the oldest continually operating market in the country during Public Press.  
I feel strongly that those who sit in silence while their rights are being threatened shall inevitably lose them due to their apathy.
I welcome comments and suggestions for handling (or not) this situation
Darnell Caffoni
Boxwood Gardens
Cape Cod Massachusetts
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