Farmers’ Markets Ontario, a network of 180 member markets across the province, released a statement today (January 8) regarding ongoing issues at the Peterborough Farmers’ Market.
The statement was sent to Wayne Jackson, Deputy Chief Administrative Officer and Director of Utility Services at the City of Peterborough, in response to a media release on the Peterborough Farmers’ Market issued by the city on January 3rd.
The text of the letter is provided below.
This is Farmers’ Markets Ontario’s statement in response to the City of Peterborough Media Release of January 3, 2018.
It is unfortunate that the Peterborough Farmers’ Market has been undergoing such disruption and conflict among the vendors which has now expanded to encompass the community and beyond. The good news is that consumer awareness is increasing about the issue and need for transparency on behalf of vendors in farmers’ markets.
The unfortunate thing is that the core issue has been lost in many ways because of the focus on reselling and the more ‘sensational’ symptoms of the conflict between vendors. The core issue, as some have continued to point out during this recent time of high visibility, is not about resellers at farmers’ markets. It is about transparency and the growing need and desire on the part of consumers, to be able to identify where their food is coming from and who produced it.
People go to farmers’ markets to buy fresh-picked produce and support local farmers. Many assume that if you’re a vendor at a farmers’ market, you’re a farmer selling what you grow or produce on a farm nearby. A lot of the time, as we know, that isn’t the case.
Farmers’ Markets Ontario has been advocating and enabling transparency related to vendors and their products at markets throughout Ontario for decades. FMO developed and launched a program in 2008 that verifies local farmers and their products at the market(s) where they sell. The fact that this MyPick Verified Local Farmer program exists province-wide, is in direct response to these issues now coming to light in Peterborough.
One challenge undermining a province-wide adoption of the program is a low awareness among consumers that there is a need for verification/transparency and that they should therefore look for it. The other challenge is that it’s a voluntary program so there are many farmers who do not yet participate in it.
The issues in Peterborough — which are shared by many markets in the province — would benefit greatly by key stakeholders (ie the City of Peterborough) acknowledging the existence of the MyPick program that has been in place for years — promoting and leveraging it as a pre-existing solution.
It is disturbing and discouraging, to say the least, that in all the media coverage and public statements and commentary about this issue, there has been little or no mention of this program or the fact that FMO has been advocating transparency with markets in Ontario for decades.
It has been identified by research over the years, that many consumers who visit farmers’ markets do so in order to connect with real farmers, buy food produced locally and in so doing, feel good about supporting the local food economy and local farm families.
Would it not make sense for local stakeholders and community leaders to work with their local market(s) and FMO to reconnect with the original intention and purpose behind the inception of farmers’ markets and support their ongoing success by using this program within today’s markets?
Let’s work together to raise awareness, promote the experience and the virtues of having access to fresh, local food within our communities and celebrate the fact that as a society we still have farmers’ markets. Local farmers are the backbone of our local food economy. FMO is advocating honesty and transparency … and the need to refocus our attention on the idea of ‘community’ — which is a significant part of the experience that draws people to their local market.
The MyPick Verified Local Farmer program is in place. It’s what the new Peterborough Market vendor signage is based on. If fully embraced by the market and the community, it enables everyone to focus back on community — the ‘coming together in unity’ around the opportunity to access, experience and celebrate fresh, local food.
Executive Director Farmers’ Markets Ontario Chair
Farmers’ Markets Ontario Chair