A last-ditch effort to stop a special meeting and membership vote that could see seven local food vendors and farmers ousted from the Peterborough farmers market was rejected by the board.
This after a Toronto-based lawyer representing the seven vendors delivered a letter to the farmers market board asking for more information and requesting the meeting be postponed.
Erin McLean, a farmer with McLean Berry Farm in Buckhorn, says her family has been selling fruits and vegetables at the Saturday farmers market for nearly 30 years. She along with six other vendors say they have been forced to hire a lawyer to help them fight what they call an “illegal eviction.”
“We tried to have (the vote) postponed but the board said ‘no,'” said McLean, from the farmers market at the Morrow building on Saturday afternoon.
Although McLean didn’t have a booth set up at this time at the winter market, she says she was there for moral support for the group in question, which includes McLean Berry Farm, Circle Organic, Otonabee Apiary, Necessetea Elixir, Gaelic Garlic, Chef Marshall and Finest Gourmet Fudge. This might have marked their final day at market.
All seven vendors will have the chance to plead their case at the special membership meeting, being called for Monday night. This after 16 members sent a formal complaint to the board just before Christmas, stressing that the behaviour of these vendors has jeopardized the integrity of the market.
The group of seven have shot back, saying the timing of the motion is problematic and call it a “ploy” to give them little time to address the petition during the busy holiday season.
Board president Cindy Hope confirmed all members will have a chance to address the accusations. The group stressed they don’t know who made the complaints nor what any accusation entail, as that has remained secret.
The board says the complainants are protected by anonymity and have given very few details about the specifics, despite the group’s lawyer requesting more information.
“All along we’ve just asked for fairness and transparency,” said McLean, who is also acting as a spokesperson for the group. “We just wanted to postpone the vote, to give us more time to understand exactly what we’re up against and what the accusations are.”
McLean says the board responded swiftly and said ‘absolutely not,’ ‘the vote cannot be postponed.'”
If the decision doesn’t go in their favour, the group plans to fight it. They have started a GoFundMe account to help pay their legal fees.
“It’s very expensive and it’s very time consuming,” said McLean. “We’re just asking for the community support once again to cover those legal costs because they are already becoming tremendous and quite a burden to us.”
Meanwhile, other vendors feel the infighting has caused some collateral damage, the feud has made national headlines.
“We need to have spots for everyone and we need to bring the community in, and we need to see ourselves as a mall of sorts,” says Erica McIlmoyle with Waymac Farms. “For every person that walks through the door to buy one thing from one person, they’re also passing a lot of other people in turn and we need to work as a community.
“When we have all this infighting and all these problems it paints this entire market with a negative brush.”
Don Brown has been a farmer and vendor at the Saturday market for 50 years now, and he’s seeing fewer people coming through the doors.
“I feel bad for the vendors here because it was really built up and five years ago this market was absolutely booming,” he said. “It didn’t matter what product you sold — it just sold. Now with traffic down, our sales are way down and that’s just the way it is.”
Brown says he’ll be in attendance at the special meeting on Monday night but says he’s going in with an open mind and is willing to hear both sides.
“I am totally indifferent, I haven’t made up my mind yet,” he said. “I got to hear what’s going on because I stay to myself and I don’t go around visiting around much. I come here to sell. I don’t come here to gossip and fight.”
The special meeting is set for Monday night at 7 p.m. and will be held in the Morrow.
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