Traverse City Record-Eagle

Archive: Saturday

March 1, 2014

Farmers market changes proposed

TRAVERSE CITY — Joan Olds supports a proposed change to the Sara Hardy Farmers Market, even though it would stop her from selling her neighbor’s tomatoes.

“I’ve been very angry standing next to people selling beets, and they’re ripping a bag open and the bag is from Wal-Mart,” Olds, of Olds Farm in Buckley, said. “It says ‘beets,’ it’s pre-packaged, and they’re ripping it open and putting them into containers. It’s not fair to the farmers and it’s not fair to the public.”

The city’s Farmers Market Committee recommended the Downtown Development Authority board require vendors sell only products they grew or made themselves. Current rules allow a vendor to sell products from another Michigan farm, as long as most products come from the vendor’s farm.

Downtown Development Authority executive director Rob Bacigalupi said that rule is hard to enforce.

“We had some folks who were probably selling more stuff that wasn’t their own, then you have to verify that it’s coming from a Michigan farm and not from Mexico,” Bacigalupi said. “It just got really complicated and we thought it’d be a lot cleaner if we said ‘no reselling. You can only sell what you grow.’”

Vendors can be from anywhere in Michigan, but another proposed change would give preference to those from Grand Traverse, Antrim, Kalkaska, Wexford, Leelanau, Benzie and Manistee counties, if vendor space is tight.

Marilyn and Terry Herman, who sell asparagus from Marilyn’s brother’s farm, Norconk Farm in Honor, want a rule to require all vendors be from the five counties surrounding Traverse City.

“I have an issue when someone from Grand Rapids comes up and presents themselves as a local vendor,” Terry said. “They have a head start on us as far as a lot of the fruits and vegetables, especially with asparagus. It warms up quicker down there.”

The committee also recommended charging vendors based on the size of their displays, updating the market’s application process and clarifying its complaint protocol. The Downtown Development Authority Board will vote on the changes at its March 21 meeting.

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