January 4, 2018 12:13 pm

Farmers’ Network offers to take over Peterborough Farmers’ Market

The Peterborough Regional Farmers' Market is calling on the board of the Peterborough Farmers' Market to disband.

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An area farmers’ group is calling on the Peterborough Farmers’ Market board of directors to disband and have the city find someone else to run the popular attraction.

The not-for-profit Peterborough Regional Farmers’ Network (PRFN) says the time has come to change the discussion at the market and is willing to take over the market.

PRFN president Neil Hannam is taking aim at the market’s four-member board, claiming it lacks leadership and let things get out of control.

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“It’s time to put a new governance structure in place that is arm’s length and independent,” said Hannam.

“As well (a governance) that values food source labelling, then we can fix the problems at the market.”

Tensions between Saturday market vendors began to rise last summer with accusations of some vendors shipping produce from outside the region but advertising the produce as grown locally.

The internal bickering peaked last month when 16 sellers requested seven vendors be expelled after being accused of “aggressive and detrimental behaviour” at the market. Those facing expulsion are Ashburnham Farms Gaelic Garlic, Circle Organic, Necessitea Elixer, McLean Berry Farm, Chef Marshal, Otonabee Apiary, and Finest Gourmet Fudge.

There are also financial concerns with approximately $21,000 unaccounted for, prompting the board to launch an independent audit.

Secretary-treasurer Jill Staples recently said the details of the complaints are confidential and that the board is mandated to respond to any written motion with 21 days.

“We have received a request from 16 members about this, and they are upset over the behaviour of these people,” Staples said.

The Farmers’ Market rents its space at the Memorial Centre parking lot and Morrow Building from the city for $45,000 a year.

As landlord, the mayor says the city shouldn’t interfere with how the private market runs.

READ MORE: Supporters hold rally for vendors facing eviction from Peterborough Farmers’ Market

But not all on council agree, including Coun. Dean Pappas.

“I think maybe it’s time to revitalize the market and the vehicle to do that would be with an RFP (request for proposal),” said Pappas.

He suggests local groups pitch to city hall their vision about running the Saturday market.

“(We) did a similar RFP with our (homeless) shelter system and arguably our organizations are stronger now because they went through that process,” he said. “Maybe staff should look at a similar process to see that maybe this is the answer due to clear terms of reference; here’s what we expect out of the market — and then it’s public, everyone knows what is going on.”

READ MORE: Seven local vendors facing termination from Peterborough farmers’ market

Hannam echoes that sentiment on transparency.

“That’s all we are asking the mayor and council,” he said. “Give us a chance to come meet with you in an open and transparent process and explain why our vision of governance is better and why our understanding of food source labelling is appropriate at this time in the country.”

As for the seven vendors that may be banned, an online petition has some 15,000 supporting them.

© 2018 Global News, a division of Corus Entertainment Inc.

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