Something fishy is going down at a farmers market in the province of Ontario, Canada and it’s caught the national news media’s attention. But the issue isn’t just a Canadian one, it’s a problem we have here too and one that you need to be aware of if you shop at your local farmers market…especially if you live in a big town.
Apparently, many vendors at Peterborough (and farmers markets across Ontario) are buying their produce at the Ontario Food Terminal in Toronto (a wholesaler) and passing it off as their own. Upon finding this out, local growers at Peterborough Farmers Market “started using large banners to prominently advertise” 1 the fact that they were selling food that had been produced or grown locally. By them.
Had that been it, the issue might have simply gone away. But then the CBC television show Marketplace videotaped a vendor buying produce from the Food Terminal and re-selling at the Saturday farmers’ market in Peterborough without telling customers where the food was grown.2
“A letter was circulated to all vendors of the market on Dec. 21 from the market’s board of directors to invite them to a special meeting on Jan. 8 to vote on whether to dismiss the following vendors:3
- Circle Organic (Andrew Flaman and Julie Fleming – organic vegetable farmers from Millbrook).
- Otonabee Apiary (Astrid Manske and Dave Moffat – honey producers from Indian River).
- Necessitea Elixir (Sax Lynn Francisco – tea company from Warsaw).
- Chef Marshall (Marshall Eckler – chef who makes fermented foods and beverages, from Peterborough).
- Finest Gourmet Fudge (Bryan Mahaffy and Greg Knifton – fudge makers from Peterborough).
- Ashburnham Farm Gaelic Garlic (Romeyn Stevenson – beef/garlic/vegetable farmer from Bailieboro).
- McLean Berry Farm (Sam, Ben and Erin McLean – berry and vegetable farmers from just outside Buckhorn).”
And so, after multiple years- some even decades- certain vendors at the Peterborough Farmers Market are being told there’s no more room for them. However, everyone being kicked out is an actual local farmer. And so, in response, they’ve called for a rally and set up an online petition. (You can sign it here and also help them raise money at their GoFundMe in case there is a legal fight.)
Check out the hidden camera investigation below:
There is to be a special meeting on January 8th, for members only, to vote on whether or not to terminate the memberships of the seven vendors over what the board has called “behaviour detrimental to the corporation,” including “inappropriate and aggressive conduct” toward other vendors, and also the uttering of “disparaging statements” that have harmed the market’s reputation.4
Or basically, they called out the fraud and deception and the 16 guilty parties complained (market bylaws require them to hold a meeting within 21 days of receiving the request).
I’m not sure if this happens at my local farmers market but my editor told me it happened all the time at the market in Dallas where she shopped, so much so that she stopped shopping there altogether. Customers will often pay up to 2x more for quality, local produce. To hide the fact that you aren’t the grower, that your produce might not be as “natural” or “organic” as people who shop at farmers markets assume, is fraud. Pure and simple.
In order to protect yourself when you are shopping local, make sure to ask where the produce is grown, how it’s grown, and even if you can visit the farm. If the answer is no, you might want to move along until you can do more digging.