Many vendors at Peterborough’s Saturday Farmers’ Market say business has been diminished ever since the weekly event became mired in controversy and infighting.
“Around October, when all of this stuff started to happen, my business started to go down about one third, which is a lot,” said Dave Talbot, owner and operator of Talbot’s Bakery.
At issue is the practice of reselling items at the market, which is actively discouraged. As the controversy grew, seven vendors found themselves facing expulsion. That led to widespread media coverage, a protest outside a board meeting and calls to boycott the market.
Talbot said he’s stayed out of the fray. But his business has taken a hit nonetheless.
“People don’t protest me, they just protest the market. But I’m part of the market, so I fall in line with everything else,” he said as he passed out pastries and breads to those who came Saturday morning.
The market was his only job, he said, until recently.
“Because of the negative impact, I went out and found myself a part-time job. To fill the gap.”
Talbot’s not the only to say the controversy has hurt the bottom line.
“It has noticeably decreased,” said Marie Shea, with Shealand Farms. “After Christmas, there’s always a slump in traffic. But I go home and I tally up my numbers, and I have records for the past five years and the numbers are down.”
That sentiment was echoed by the owner of Lakefield-based Sweet Song Herbal Gardens.
“Sales are way down, across the board. Like we’ve gone around — my husband went around one week — and I think sales are down 40 to 50 per cent for people,” said Aryn Mahood.
Peterborough Farmers’ Market board member Jill Staples acknowledged that venders have felt the pinch of low attendance in recent months, and said it comes at a particularly hard time of year for local growers.
“Especially during the winter months, when there aren’t a lot other options for the farmers to sell their produce,” she said. “And so they also hire local people, and that can make a difference between having a good lifestyle and being able to afford good food.”
In an effort to address the controversy surrounding the market, the board recently unveiled new signage indicating who the buyers, sellers and producers are.
“We have noticed over the last week — especially since we’ve done all our promotion about our new signage — that attendance has come back up,” she said.
Staples said the market pays the city about $60,000 to run the market and spends $20,000 on advertising throughout the year.