To the Summer Farm & Craft Market Board of Directors and your members:
I would like to express my grave concerns with recent decisions that have resulted in the exclusion of Wild Flight Farm as a vendor of the summer market. I understand that this is not the first vendor nor member to run into these problems and as a result I am quite concerned with the lack of democratic process that has resulted in decisions that are clearly not in the best interest of the community you serve. (Please click here to read The Current’s original story about this issue. You can also click here to read Herman and Louise Bruns’ letter to supporters.)
In recent communications from your board you state that you received a letter from the BC Association of Farmers Markets (BCAFM) indicating that you were at risk of losing your membership with them if you continue to allow vendors to purchase produce wholesale and then re-sell it at the market. I assume you were referring to the small selection of organic produce grown by farmers other than Wild Flight Farm that were being sold in the shoulder seasons to help fill-in seasonal produce gaps until they, or some other vendor, had them available. While I find it very difficult to believe that you have received such a letter without in some way requesting it, I think that the concern raised in this letter should have been addressed with Wild Flight Farm and the membership directly. They were never given the chance to respond to this concern. As you know, this practice of selling organic produce grown by other farmers was driven by community demand who, for a long time, had only limited access to good quality organic produce. It is my understanding that Wild Flight Farm has sought approval from the RFCM membership each year and that the associated motion had been approved every year to date – though not without opposition from members of the board. Still, the motion was approved by majority vote, and contrary to director Meakes’ comments in the recent Times Review article, for the last few years these items were limited to BC-grown items and comprised no more than 20% of the total product being sold. It is quite easy to get caught up in the minutia of what exactly was/is going on, but I am most concerned with the fact that Wildflight Farm and market members were denied the opportunity to review the issues at hand and collectively make decisions on how to address them.
While you may not particularly like having to work with all of your vendors, you are bound by Society Act bylaws to conduct the governance of your society in open, democratic and transparent ways. Denying Wild Flight Farm their membership, thus denying them the opportunity to attend the AGM and respond to the concerns raised by your board and to discuss this issue with your members has taken membership input out of the picture entirely. Clearly, there is a communication and governance problem here.
Additionally, you state that you are concerned about losing membership to the BCAFM as this puts at risk the nutrition coupon program which supplies low-income residents of Revelstoke with access to ~$10,000 of fresh local food every year. I find this to be laughable since it was Hermann Bruns of Wild Flight Farm and Terra Park of Terra Firma Farms who volunteered their time to perform the bulk of administrative tasks required of the program after your board threatened to cancel participation in this program. I am also aware that while Bruns and Park provide the bulk of the work required, your board receives and retains 100% of the honorarium provided by BCAFM.
Furthermore, it is my understanding that the board was disbanded last year in a vote of non-confidence due in large part to proposed policy changes made by then-board members Hermann Bruns and Mark Hartley in an effort to open membership eligibility and allow for greater community input on market management. However, as a person who has worked in the non-profit sector for over ten years I am quite certain that proper process for this special resolution was not followed as the membership was not provided with adequate notification nor written explanation of the circumstances that lead to the proposed special resolution, which ultimately resulted in the expulsion of Bruns and Hartley from the board.
As one of the primary authors of the Revelstoke Food Security Strategy, I know that one of the high-priority recommendations was the addition of a community liaison to the board of the Revelstoke Farm and Craft Market. I understand that this recommendation and request was presented to your board by both Community Connections and the Local Food Initiative and was flatly turned down without justification or explanation. Again, I see this as a symptom of serious transparency issues and I question whether this board has the best interests of the community at heart.
I would like to remind you that Wild Flight Farm has served the community of Revelstoke for almost 25 years. They have served as an anchor in the summer Farm and Craft Market undeniably drawing in the bulk of the market’s customer base. This community has been supported by years of hard work and dedication that have resulted in the nourishment of our families and we will not stand by and watch you treat the Bruns family with such disrespect. Furthermore, I recognize that Wild Flight Farm is not the first vendor to have been denied proper democratic process and fear for who may come next…
Ironically, I wonder whether you realize that you are harming other vendors with this decision. As a result of the relatively large selection of products that Wild Flight Farm has provided at the market, the community has learned they can come to the market at any point in the season and at any point in the market’s operating hours and still have a good chance of purchasing the produce they seek. I would argue that this has created a sense of stability and dependability in the market that everyone benefits from. For me personally, it is the produce that gets me there every single week and while I do purchase from other farmers, I depend on Wild Flight Farm to supply me with the products that other vendors are not yet producing or have run out of. Also, while the produce is what got me to the market, once I’m there I often stumble across some cute craft or yummy treat to round out the experience. There are many vendors who realize that this scenario rings true for the majority of market-goers and are questioning why you have not involved them in the decision making process.
Moving forward, I would like to see a third-party non-profit governance expert brought in to review and assist with proper governance of this society. I would also like to be assured that all members of the board will stand for re-election as the entire board was disbanded and repopulated outside the formal AGM process. I would like to have the decision to reject Wild Flight Farm’s membership rescinded. Finally, I would like to see a position made on the board of directors for a community liaison and that the community of Revelstoke have some say in who occupies this position.
Thank you for your time,