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Push for more transparency on farmers’ market products comes to Belleville

The Belleville’s Farmers’ Market operated Tuesdays, Thursdays and Saturdays. Photo by Dariya Baiguzhiyeva, QNet News

By Dariya Baiguzhiyeva [1]

BELLEVILLE – Local or not local: that is the question customers might ask when shopping at a farmers’ market.

A recent CBC Marketplace investigation [2] found that some of the produce being sold as locally grown at farmers’ markets is really bought at the Food Terminal [3] in Toronto and then resold.

The handbook for vendors at Belleville’s farmer’s market [4] states that resellers are not allowed but that vendors may, with the permission of the market’s manager or the city clerk, sell others’ products – preferably those of a relative or neighbouring farmer. The maximum amount of resold items is 35 per cent of the vendor’s product line.

Clifford Hoster, the director of the market, says that reselling products from the Food Terminal shouldn’t be tolerated, but produce from neighbouring farms fits within the rules.

“Everything here is labelled,” Belleville Farmers’ Market vendor Neal Lockwood says. Photo by Dariya Baiguzhiyeva, QNet News.

Neal Lockwood, a farmer who sells fresh produce at the Belleville market, says that if customers are wondering where the fruits and vegetables come from, all they have to do is ask.

“We are all hard-working people. There’s nothing to hide, nothing to lie about,” he said.

But for some customers that isn’t enough.

Saying she wants to support local farmers by buying local produce, Eden Oterholm of Foxboro started an online petition [5] last month calling for several changes at the market to ensure transparency. Oterholm, who raises bees as a hobby and used to work on commercial farms, is petitioning the city and Jackie Tapp, the president of the market, to:

The petition currently has over 300 signatures.

In her letter to the city, Oterholm says she has had misunderstandings with farmers because of the word “resell.”

“Some vendors have stated they don’t resell, (but) when questioned further they sell products grown on other farms by other farmers,” the letter says. “However, because it isn’t from the terminal in Toronto or another wholesaler, they don’t identify their products as reselling.”

Farmers Market [6] from QNet News [7] on Vimeo [8].