Farmers’ Market board needs to better define its policies and communicate them to the public

To the editor:

Many of the patrons of the Farmers’ Markets here probably do not realize that the winter and the summer markets are two separate entities even though many of the same vendors are at both. Although I have been a customer at both markets for many years, I certainly didn’t realize this until I decided to join the Revelstoke Farm and Craft Market, the summer version, to become a vendor.

I paid my membership fee by the deadline of 7th March and have so far received no receipt for that payment. On 15 March I attended the Revelstoke Farm and Craft Market (RFCM) Annual General Meeting still not knowing whether I was accepted as a vendor or what my vendor status would be and thus not knowing whether I had associate or full member status and whether my vote counted. I received the RFCM Policies and AGM Agenda from another vendor with whom I hoped to partner. Although I had paid my membership fee, I did not receive a copy of the RFCM policies and AGM Agenda from the RFCM as I should have.

At the AGM, the Minutes from the previous meeting were read. My guess is that there were 4 to 5 pages of Minutes from the 2013 AGM. It is difficult to take in that amount of information, particularly when parts were not audible to me. I requested a copy of those Minutes, and that in future the Minutes from the previous AGM should be sent out in advance with the agenda. The Board countered that that would be expensive and that they could not send out Minutes which had not been voted on. Just about everyone has e-mail so expense is not a factor. In addition Societies have to make available to the public their Minutes and it is impossible to raise questions on a verbal account. It was agreed that the 2013 AGM Minutes should be sent to members by e-mail. I have still not received a copy.

As the AGM progressed, it became clear to me that the membership had little input and that the Board and its interpretation of the BC Association of Farmers Markets Guidelines (please note Guidelines not hard and fast rules) dominated. There seemed to be no interest in or understanding of the people who come to shop at the RFCM on a regular basis and provide the core of custom for many vendors. Three out of five members of the Board do not live in Revelstoke which may account for the lack of response to local needs and desires. Nor did the Board indicate any understanding for the rather different problems of farmers, market gardeners and orchardists – primary producers dependent on weather and who may well provide additional local/BC employment – from those vendors who “make or bake” but in the process use materials provided/manufactured by other people. Lastly the policies seemed to be applied in an arbitrary fashion – really, does filling a bought balloon with water and selling it count as ‘making?’

We have had a good and very lively summer market here, but there will be some popular vendors missing this year. The decision to suddenly enforce some ‘policies’ was not brought up at the AGM. Maybe it’s time to have more Revelstoke representatives on the Board and to have more consumer input.

Sandra Flood
Revelstoke, BC