It was a marathon meeting at the Morrow Building on Monday night, as the membership of the Peterborough and District Farmers Market gathered to deliberate on the future of seven vendors who have been put up for eviction for behaviour deemed “detrimental to the corporation.
As farmers and vendors filed their way into the meeting, they were greeted by a dozen or so protestors who were showing their support for the local vendors facing eviction.
It was just days before Christmas a notice of a special meeting was circulated notifying the vendors were all subject to termination for behaviour that undermined the entire market.
They include McLean Berry Farm, Circle Organic, Otonabee Apiary, Necessitea Elixir, Gaelic Garlic, Chef Marshall and Finest Gourmet Fudge.
The notice was sent after 16 members complained and filed a petition with the market board. The board said it is mandated to respond to these complaints within 21 days.
Still, this didn’t sit well with the supporters outside.
“I really want to support our local farmers,” said protestor Tracy Vousden-Welch. “I believe that local food is really the best and transparency is really important and I want to know if the produce I’m buying is local or if it’s coming from a food terminal.”
John Welch braved the damp-cold weather and held a sign above his head that read “no pink slips,” a slogan for the campaign which the group of seven vendors facing eviction started.
More than 80 members were inside at the meeting, but other members such as John Ruffa, a local winemaker and owner of Kawartha Country Wines who has been a vendor at the market for over a year, were told he wasn’t allowed to vote.
“Somehow or another we don’t qualify to be a member in complete standing or full standing,” said Ruffa from outside the meeting. “They said that we don’t qualify to be a member as of this point and we’ve been here a year and a half and that’s as much as we know.”
“I would love to be inside there right now but I’m not allowed to be in there,” added Welch, a local teacher. “To me, transparency is really important and I hope that’s the way we’re going to go after this.”
As members were signing in at the information table, just prior to the meeting, a pamphlet was being handed out that showed three options for the future of market and labelled the seven vendors as “dissidents” and claimed that if the vendors were not voted out, “they would take over the market” and that “the city would not renew the lease to the Morrow Building.”
Several vendors confirmed the pamphlet was not an official document and said the third-party facilitator who chaired the special meeting addressed the sheet and dismissed it, and asked vendors to disregard the information, while other members tried to scoop up copies of the pamphlet but not before a sheet was passed to the media outside.
After a four-and-a-half hour meeting, nothing was resolved and no votes were cast.
As vendors made their way out of the meeting, they remained tight-lipped, saying they had been ordered not to talk about the meeting and several members said a “gag order” had been put in place.
One vendor confirmed another meeting would be called sometime within the next 30 days but claimed, that was all they could say.
Market board president Cindy Hope has not returned our requests for an interview.