Market a terminal vendor-free zone
The Belleville Farmers’ Market is a terminal vendor-free zone.
A recent CBC Marketplace report on farmers’ markets across Ontario suggests some vendors are duping customers by making claims the produce they were selling was grown locally when in fact it was being purchased at Toronto’s Ontario Food Terminal – Canada’s largest wholesale market – and then resold for profit at local farmers markets.
There are no provincial regulations anywhere in Canada against reselling at farmers’ markets, so it’s left to each individual market to set and enforce its own rules. Some markets prohibit or limit reselling but the majority do not.
But Jackie Tapp, of Picton – a vendor at the Belleville Farmers’ Market for 27 years – says that’s not the case in Belleville.
“Back in the 1990s when the city still operated the Farmers Market there were several terminal vendors. They were bringing in huge loads from the terminal, skids of watermelons and things like that. But when the farmers took over operation of the market and rewrote the rules, a grandfather clause was put in place for existing terminal vendors, but no new ones were allowed at the market. It’s been more than a decade since all of the terminal vendors either retired or passed away, so we’ve been a terminal vendor-free market for a long time.”
Eden Oterholm is running a campaign to make it easier to distinguish and support local products at Belleville Farmers’ Market.
She says over nearly two centuries the local market “has grown, adapted and changed. It is time for it to change again. We want to make it easier to support our local producers.”
Oterholm says her campaign requests the word ‘local’ be clearly defined in the rule handbook for the Belleville Farmers’ Market, as items produced within the Bay of Quinte region. Currently in Ontario the word applies to all produce grown in the province.
“We request that any products from outside the Bay of Quinte region and/or being resold in this market should clearly state where they were produced. This will allow consumers to have a clear choice to support products grown and produced in this immediate area and facilitate in supporting and encouraging local farms.”
Other requests include:
• A review by the city to ensure all vendors are complying with the current rule that reselling is to be limited to 35 per cent of the sellers product line.
• That the market be opened to other locally produced products to diversify the offerings available such as local craft beverages. Which are now allowed to be sold at Ontario farmers markets as of Feb. 18, 2016.
• That the Belleville Farmers’ Market slowly reduces the amount of reselling of items and replace these items or vendors with products produced within the Bay of Quinte region.
Stirling’s Lauren Nurse, who farms six-and-a-half acres, told Marketplace she relies on farmers’ markets as a source of income. She says farmers’ market customers “should be able to have confidence in the food they’re buying and who they’re buying it from.” She sid vendors who purchase produce at the Ontario Food Terminal for resale undermine the industry.
“People are being duped,” she said. “There’s no difference between food that you buy at the grocery store and food at the farmers’ market if it all comes from the food terminal.”
Tapp, who along with Tammy Carter – a 10-year veteran of the local farmers’ market – administer the Belleville Farmers’ Market Facebook page, insists that’s not happening in Belleville.
“All the vendors here sell only items that they produced themselves or are supplemented with products produced by friends and neighbours in the Quinte region. We’re just farmers helping farmers,” Tapp said.
“There is no way I could survive with just selling my baked goods and that’s why we get support from friends and neighbours. We’re self employed, so we have no medical or dental plans, so we have more costs raising our families,” Tapp said.
Regarding Oterham’s campaign, Carter thinks “she’s trying to divide us. I’m the moderator for our Facebook page and try to keep people civil, but it’s been crazy the past few weeks.”
“(Oterholm) is entitled to her opinion, but her opinion should at least be right,” Carter said. “There are no problems here. A farmers’ market is not a supermarket. People come here to support local farmers and to meet with friends over coffee. I’ve been here for 10 years now and I’ve met some wonderful people and families. I couldn’t have done that working as a cashier in a supermarket.”
The Belleville Farmers' Market has been in operation for nearly 200 years. Vendors who purchase produce at the Ontario Food Terminal in Toronto — Canada's largest wholesale market — are not welcome in the Market Square. "It's all about local farmers helping local farmers," says veteran vendor Jackie Tapp, of Picton (at right).