Subcommittee recommendation: keep the Market “local”

Passions and opinions have been running at full speed regarding the policies that govern what can and can’t be sold at the Greensboro Farmer’s Curb Market.  During the last month a subcommittee of the Parks & Recreation Commission has been looking into the issue with an eye to making a recommendation to the full Commission this Wednesday.  I will be presenting the subcommittee’s findings and report at that meeting.

The re-worked “Vendor participation Guidelines” that will be recommended can be found here.  You won’t find much in the way of policy changes, however.  The main issues the subcommittee addressed were clarity and definitions.  If anything, the subcommittee saw a need to strengthen language to ensure the market remains as “local” as possible.

In the end, those who argued that “non-local” items should be allowed to be sold along side of “local” products were listened to, but their case was ultimately rejected by the sub-committee.  The recommendation to the full Commission will be to keep the Farmer’s Market just that, a Farmer’s Market and not another Harris Teeter or Food Lion.

That said, the recommended policy has a vehicle for allowing certain “non-local” products to be offered for sale at the Market under extenuating circumstances.  It is known as “An Application for a Variance to Sell” and can be found on page 7 of the proposed policy.

Some of the most vehement objectors to the market’s current policies came from supporters of an Amish vendor family who had been, for some time, selling, “Amish made” butter and cheese manufactured in Ohio.  The very loyal customers of that family contend that local demand for the distributed products had been established even though they had done so only because of slack enforcement of the rules on the part of previous management. They reasoned that the Amish folks should be allowed to continue selling those products despite having been denied a variance due to the non-local nature of the products.

After some snooping around by this Commissioner and others, it was discovered that those products are readily available from at least two regular stores in Greensboro: Earth Fare and K-Mart.

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5 Comments

  1. Sara
    Posted October 6, 2008 at 5:07 pm | Permalink

    Thanks for the update. I spend a large portion of my food budget to support local small farmers and other producers who sell their wares at the Curb Market. I’m very happy with the clarifications and justifications presented by the subcommittee as part of the proposed policy recommendation.

    The market has had a clear mission, set out in its written guidelines, promoting access to LOCAL produce. I like that they promote farmers and other producers selling their wares directly to buyers, rather than allowing for reselling of products from a thousand miles away, middlemen making a profit. The situation at the market in recent years has been one of looking in the other direction and ignoring those who are selling products in violation of this policy. I as a consumer at the market, though, am relying on the market management to enforce their existing policies so that I can be assured that I’m buying locally produced goods. I’m glad they have put forth clear guidelines for those who want to seek the ability to resell products they did not produce, and that they are intent on keeping the core mission and values of the market intact and protected.

    A few years ago, I used to shop at the Winston-Salem farmer’s market at the fairgrounds there, and they seemed to have a much more relaxed policy that allowed for resellers to come in and sell whatever they wanted. I’d see shrinkwrapped wilted heads of iceberg lettuce and bananas being sold there by a sullen person who stunk up the place with cigarette smoke. Perhaps if the Curb Market were struggling to attract buyers and sellers, with thin crowds and empty tables, as that Winston-Salem fairgrounds market was, I could understand a more relaxed policy. But the Curb Market is teeming with crowds of shoppers and has no shortage of local producers wanting to sell their wares.

    There are plenty of places already for all of us to buy non-local food from resellers, wholesalers, and large-scale farms: the grocery stores and the huge farmers’ market off of I-40. Let’s keep the Curb Market oriented towards locally produced foods. As far as the Amish butter and cheese in particular, thank you for pointing out that grocery stores around town actually already resell the products made by those folks in Ohio (apparently a pretty large operation!). I would also point out that there are other North Carolina dairies who do sell butter and cheese at the market. I would prefer for them to not have to compete for space at the Curb Market with dairy products brought in from Ohio. While focusing on the example of the Amish sellers might strike a sentimental chord, there are certainly other sellers at the market reselling non-local goods, things that don’t grow around here or aren’t produced around here, wholesalers just making a buck.

  2. dhoggard
    Posted October 6, 2008 at 9:30 pm | Permalink

    Thanks Sarah,

    The future of the Market is in its past, in my opinion. A truly local market for truly local goods.

    Local foods, with the proper ‘bonafides’, are becoming more and more in demand and those farmers who strive to provide such products, ethically and responsibly, should be supported and promoted fully at the market on Yanceyville St… without compromise.

    There are plenty of outlets around Greensboro for folks who want to sell distributed and non-local products – including the Sandy Ridge Road facility.

  3. BRIAN GANN
    Posted October 7, 2008 at 4:21 pm | Permalink

    DAVID,DAVID,DAVID
    WHAT HAPPEN TO PUTTING THE RULES BACK TO WHERE THEY WERE AND GETTING A MARKET CORDINATOR/MARKET MANAGER THAT DOES NOT HAVE A FINICAL STAKE IN THE MARKET? LOCALY GROWN PRODUCE IS FINE AND I HAVE NO PROBLEM WITH BUT, WHAT YOU DO NOT UNDERSTAND IS THE FAIR WEATHER FARMERS THAT ARE PUSHING THIS ISSUE ONLY SUPPORT THE MARKET LESS THAN 6 MONTHS OUT OF THE YEAR AND ARE NOT THERE IN THE WINTER.

    SECONDLY, WHAT ABOUT MY CHEESE? NORTH CAROLINA PRODUCT,APPLIED FOR A VARIANCE AND RECIVED ONE FROM GERRY ALFANO,LYNNE LEONARD COMES IN I DO NOT HAVE A VARIANCE AND WAS TOLD NOT TO SELL.
    (BY THE WAY YOU CANNOT BUY IT AT EARTHFARE OR HARRIS TEETER)

    WHAT YOU NEED TO DO , IS GETT US BETTER LEADERSHIP THAT IS GOING TO UPHOLD THE RULES THAT WE AVE NOW DO NOT ADD MORE RULES TO US

  4. Ruth Ann Foster
    Posted October 7, 2008 at 11:22 pm | Permalink

    Now that a path has been chosen, I would encourage the commission to eliminate discrepancies and clarify what local means. To maintain the local “integrity” of the market, the market should be purged of non-local items such as coffee, tea, and imported food items.

    I would also add that you make sure to carefully consider your statement that, “The future of the Market is in its past”. I wonder how craft vendors came to be at the market. I imagine that the said crafts were those offered by farmers’ wives and were directly related to farm life including such items as farm made jams and jellies, corn husk dolls, or farm grown flowers. Those are a far cry from jewelry, pictures, and pottery produced by city hobbyists or food prepared by commercial bakers and caterers. It is a farmers’ market, or is it?

    You see David, it is about more than cheese. It is about the many inconsistencies of the policy and the fact that they have only recently been enforced and mostly with personal vendettas. The Amish sold their cheese long before Earth Fare carried it. And Donna Meyer resold Old Mill mixes which are really just repackaged grain blends from Lindley Mills from Minnesota grains. (North Carolina can’t grow many types of wheat.) And imported olive oil was a wonderful accompaniment to ethnic food. But who cared? We were happy to support our local friends.

    Vendors were misled by the Vendor Advisory Committee. Members left the committee because of that. Pat Bush told the Amish in 2006 that their cheese would be exempt from the policy. Recently, she confessed and apologized to me by admitting that she “never intended for it (the policy) to affect the Amish”. Hypocritically, the vendors who so vehemently oppose the Amish cheese purchased it from them at the Saturday market – with a vendor discount.

    There is an old farm saying that, “you reap what you sow”. The row the commission has chosen will be a tough one. We shall see if the market can endure the bleak winter months when the micro and nano farmers (those who “farm” on a couple of acres or less) are gone and there is little local produce available. The old huckster rule compensated for that. But that was eliminated with the new policy.

    Meanwhile, the message from the market is clear – you want us to shop at Earth Fare. After all, we can purchase many of the products from the same vendors as those at the market. Besides, it is closer for many of us. I guess you could call that “local”?.

    There is one difference at Earth Fare, though – they actually care what the customer wants. Two hundred and fifty petition signatures should count for something.

  5. dhoggard
    Posted October 8, 2008 at 6:55 am | Permalink

    As for me, in the end, I saw a need for the market to function under rules that are clearly defined rather than the ‘wink and a nod’ of the past. I expect for Market Management to apply the rules fairly across the board. If it does not, I’m sure we will hear about it in the future.

    As for reinstatement of the ‘huckster rule’, I saw the need for it to keep the market viable during the off-growing months. I believe that the ‘variance’ mechanism will accommodate those who wish to sell, say, asparagus in December. The key will be planning ahead a bit by the vendors and everyone going heavy on honesty, cooperation and accountability – from all sides. The ‘huckster rule’, as it used to stand, was an enforcement problem of a high order.

    As for craft sellers, they still take a back seat to farmers, then food artisans, in space availability. I think this is a better solution than having empty tables.

    I agree, Ruth… it IS about more than cheese. It is about clear rules consistently applied.

    I know as well as you, that, in the past, the rules were flaunted and management turned a blind eye to it. But that, to me, is no reason for a continuation of either practice.

    The speed limit on the street in front of my house is 25, but people go 35, or even 40, every day and have been for at least a decade.

    If, tomorrow, the police set up an enforcement area and give a ticket to everyone exceeding 25mph… would their plea to the judge be.. “…but that’s the speed I’ve been going for six years…”

    I don’t think so. Those drivers, just like every vendor at the market, know the rules… even though they’ve not been completely adhered to or consistently enforced. To me, it is a matter of integrity and order.

    If what you take from this is the message that I, or anyone else, want you to shop at Earth Fare to the exclusion of the Curb Market – then so be it – but that is an untrue statement.

    As for me… I want customers to shop at the Market for all of the great things that the market offers under its mission and guidelines… and elsewhere for all of things that it does not.