By David F. Rooney
There’s bad news and good news to report about the 2017 Summer Farmer’s Market. What would you like to hear first? The bad news?
Okay. Here it is: Hermann and Louise Bruns of Wild Flight Farm will no longer be part of the annual Saturday-morning Revelstoke Farm & Craft Market.
“Unfortunately, it’s true,” Hermann said in an interview on Tuesday, March 21. “This would have been our 25th year at the market.”
He said although he met “informally” twice with Salmon Arm director Dan Meakes there were no discussions between Wildflight Farm and the market’s five-director board. The board consists of three directors from Revelstoke, one from Salmon Arm and one from Mara.
“We did not send him an application form this year,” Tamaralea Nelles, one of the market’s three Revelstoke-based directors, told The Current.
Hermann said that when he sent in an application anyway, they returned his $275 cheque.
Now, he says, he’ll try to set up an alternative market.
Tamaralea said the board wishes Herman well and hopes his plans for a second market are successful.
“We don’t want to hurt him,” she said. “He has been an essential contributor to the market for a long time.”
She said the board and Wild Flight Farm parted ways in large part because the board wanted to adhere to a BC Association of Farmers’ Markets policy that can punish markets that allow individual vendors who do not “make, bake, grow or raise the products they sell.”
Every year at the Revelstoke Farm & Craft Market AGM Hermann says he put forward a resolution that would allow him to sell fruits and vegetables from other BC growers for a five-to-seven-week period as a kind of “bridge” between the start of the weekly summer market at the end of April and the full-on availability of fruits and vegetables grown on Wild Flight Farm land, usually sometime in late May or early June.
He said board directors always voted against these annual resolutions but they were bound to do what the members wanted. And the members had, until now, always voted in favour of his resolution. By refusing to accept his application to become a vendor for the 2017 season, the board has prevented him from doing that this year because he is now no longer a member in good standing and cannot attend the market’s AGM.
There may be other reasons behind this. There has been a certain amount of friction between Hermann and the market board over the years and he believes some of irritants in their relationship may be personal.
“A lot of people don’t like our board,” Tamaralea said, “but we did this because to do otherwise is definitely not in the interest of our members.”
“In the event that a member farmers’ market is found to be in violation of this bylaw and the make it, bake it, grow it requirement, the BCAFM’s current practice is to issue a warning letter… If the violation continues, the market will not be granted BCAFM membership the following year. Consequently, the market will lose the benefits associated with BCAFM membership, including:
- “Removal from and ineligibility to participate in the BCAFM Farmers’ Market Nutrition Coupon Program. (As of October 18th, 2016, $7,881 worth of Farmers’ Market Nutrition Coupons were redeemed with vendors at the Revelstoke Farm and Craft Market) [Both Hermann and Tamaralea believe the actual number is closer to $10,000];
- “No access to the BCAFM’s discounted group rate on farmers’ market insurance for farmers’ market staff, directors and vendors;
- “Removal from BCAFM networking and communications including sector updates, newsletter and farmers’ market list serve;
- “Exclusion from BCAFM advocacy activities, marketing and promotions, including the provincially distributed brochure (which is distributed to your local and surrounding visitor centres), BCAFM’s online market finder and provincially funded promotional campaigns such as the Ministry of Agriculture’s Buy Local Program;
- “No access to discounted member rates on BCAFM training opportunities or resource materials such as the annual BC Farmers’ Markets Conference, Market Management Certificate Program or Board Governance Manual; and
- “Ineligibility to vote in the BCAFM AGM.”
That’s pretty clear. While the penalty about being removed “from BCAFM networking and communications” is pretty picayune, the rest have teeth.
Hermann, who does about 25 per cent of his business in Revelstoke, wishes he could have been permitted to appear at this year’s AGM, scheduled for April, in order to make his annual pitch. Then, he said, the members — who all received a copy of the BCAFM letter and its list of penalties last autumn — could decide for themselves. He would have been willing to abide by a vote made by the membership, he said.
“The worst thing about this is the lack of accountability,” Louise Bruns told The Current. “The thing about this is the lack of process. The membership is not being consulted.
“in any organization, when there re significant changes being proposed the membership is always consulted. That’s not what’s happening here.”
No. It’s not and both sides have hired lawyers to ensure their legal rights are protected. While Tamaralea did not say who is representing the market, Hermann and Louise have retained local lawyer Jody Lownds. It all seems fairly low-key, but in a March 6 letter to the market board regarding its refusal to accept a the farm’s vendor application Lownds said:
“Mr. Bruns has no real desire to proceed with court action and his main interest is in seeing the RFCM operate as a functional society. With that goal in mind, his proposal is for a neutral third party to be appointed to hear from all interested parties regarding the governance issues within RFCM and make recommendations on how to move this matter forward and reduce conflict on an ongoing basis.
“If Mr. Bruns’ 201 7 Membership Renewal is accepted and if a facilitated discussion can take place regarding governance of the Society and democratic procedures to be followed in amending RFCM Policies, we do not anticipate the need for any further involvement on our part in this matter.”
In any event, Wild Flight Farm’s long association with the Revelstoke Farm & Craft Market is now at an end and it does not look as though there will be any last-minute reconciliation between the two parties.
If you’ve read this far you are wondering what the good new might be. Well, here it is: Consumers will likely benefit from this parting of the ways as it creates new opportunities for both the market and for Wild Flight Farm.
“Maybe 25 years is long enough,” Hermann said.
Hermann has two potential locations in mind for his alternative market but says he first needs to discuss their feasibility with staff at City Hall and with members of the business community who might be affected before he can say anything more.
“This might give consumers more choice,” he said.
And on that point both he and Tamaralea agreed As she noted the market board has “four new growers coming to Revelstoke.”