Turmoil, eviction threats at farmers market featured in CBC investigation of homegrown lies

Certain local producers say they’re facing expulsion from the Peterborough, Ont., husbandmen market because of their campaign to increase transparency among suitor vendors, just months after a CBC Marketplace investigation revealed two vendors were not being upfront in all directions the provenance of their fruits and veggies.

The group on the chopping block embraces four produce farms and three artisans, who are also part of the drive to stand up for local producers over resellers peddling wholesale assets c incriminating evidences from elsewhere.

Each was named in a notice sent out by the market’s lodge of directors on Dec. 21, requesting that all members attend a Jan. 8 caucus to vote on a motion to evict the seven from their stands.

The good notice cites “disruptive behaviour,” “making false and talk down statements … having a negative impact on the reputation of the market” and “fightings that directly violate the Code of Ethics” as reasons for the move.

“It is clearly shocking, what they are trying to do. We don’t understand why they are trying to drop-kick us out,” said Julie Fleming, co-owner of Circle Organic, a 15-acre vegetable farmhouse in nearby Millbrook.

She said no specific allegations from other vendors compel ought to been brought to her attention.

Her family-run operation generates about a third of its thoroughgoing annual income from selling at the Saturday farmers market in Peterborough, based northeast of Toronto.

“It will be totally devastating,” Fleming said of her reasonable eviction.

‘People want to know the truth. More than all the time before, people want to know about their food.’ – Julie Fleming, co-owner of Ring Organic farm

Reached by telephone, the market’s spokesperson and fellow vendor Streak Jones would only acknowledge that a meeting has been buzzed and that the allegations will be aired at that point. He declined to commentary on any specific details, citing privacy concerns. Jones repeated disparate times that no decisions have been finalized. 

But Erin McLean, co-owner of the family-run McLean’s Berry Homestead, which cultivates a total of 287 acres of land and faces expulsion from the market, says she feels like she’s “backed into a corner.”

“This our trade in, too,” she said. “Farmers markets are for farmers. We don’t think we should have to entrust or back down.”

‘People were really concerned’

In late September, a Marketplace discovery procedure identified two vendors at the market making misleading claims that the forth they were selling was locally grown.

The investigation followed one vendor’s wares to the Ontario Food Terminal in Toronto, where staff loaded strikes of produce. At the Peterborough market the next day, the Marketplace team spotted what appeared to be those unvarying boxes and watched as workers removed stickers and transferred vegetables from wholesale belts to farm bushels.

“After that Marketplace episode, people were genuinely concerned,” said McLean, who emphasized the fact that the issues caused in the CBC report go back years and are at the root of long-running tensions between some vendors and the committee of directors.

“We asked for these issues to be looked into and dealt with, and they at best weren’t,” she said. 

Late this past summer, about a dozen vendors at the demand — including the seven vendors named in the special notice — opted to clat banners at their stands to let consumers know that their gifts were harvested locally or made from products cultivated locally. Similarly, yon 18 months ago, the four farms and three artisan businesses co-signed a write to the board asking that priority be given to certified local shamuses. 

“All seven of us listed have been vocal in an effort to stand up for city farmers,” Fleming said. “People want to know the truth. Diverse than ever before, people want to know about their grub.”

‘Huge part of our community’

The group started an online petition occupation for a review of the board’s “actions and behaviour” and planned to hold a “rally for townsperson food” Friday morning in Peterborough. 

In the past, vendors frustrated with the exchange’s management have splintered off, forming smaller markets of their own in burghs surrounding Peterborough. McLean says that’s not a viable option this for the nonce at once around.

“We want to save this market. It is very important to us. We be this market to thrive. It’s a huge part of our business and it’s a huge behalf of our community.”

Both Fleming and McLean said that if the market’s other vendors, covering board members, vote to expel the seven vendors named in the beckon, the group will call on the city — which owns the land where the Stock Exchange is held — to put out a request for proposals for a new use for the plot. The group’s hope would be that it on still be used for a Saturday market, but that an entirely new board of executives would be chosen. 

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