The Local Food Initiative is starting a new farmers market in Revelstoke after Wild Flight Farm was not allowed back into the existing one on Saturday.
Nadja Luckau, the president of the LFI, the food security advocacy group, said they are establishing a steering committee and hope to have the new market up and running in a month.
“It’s going to be a transparent process with a bigger steering committee to make sure the community has a say in how this market gets set up,” she said.
The details of when and where the market will take place and who will take part remains to be determined. “The big issue is it has to happen pretty quick and that’s why we don’t want to talk about any details yet about when and where,” said Luckau.
The existing Revelstoke Farm & Craft Market held its annual general meeting behind closed doors on Saturday, Apr. 8, with protests both for against their decision to not renew Wild Flight’s membership taking place outside.
Wild Flight Farm sold produce at the farmers market for 24 years and was regarded by many as the anchor tenant of the market. Last fall, the market’s board of directors did not renew its membership. The board said Wild Flight had grown too big for the market and that by importing and selling produce from other farms, it was violating the markets’ policies and putting its membership in the BC Association of Farmers Markets at risk.
Hermann Bruns, the owner of Wild Flight Farm, said he always sought permission to import a small amount of produce and he was willing to stop if that’s what the membership wanted. He also raised concerns about how the decision was made.
The differences between the two sides were irreconcilable, leading to the move to start a second market.
“I was disappointed of course that the market decided to continue in the direction its going,” said Bruns. “That seems to be the reality now, so we’re going to continue in the direction of creating a new market.”
About 75 people gathered inside the community centre on Saturday to protest the board’s decision.
Photo: Red flags were held up as symbolism to represent the “red flags” raised about the lack of due process, said Hailey Ross, the organizer of Saturday’s protest.
The AGM lasted for several hours and a new board of directors was elected, with Tamaralea Nelles continuing on as president. The Review left a message with Nelles on Saturday afternoon and made several more attempts to speak to her on Monday morning, but she did not return our calls before press time.
Dan Meakes, an outgoing director, did speak to the Review on Monday. He called the 3.5-hour meeting “uneventful.”
“The public has expressed its desire, the meeting made its decision and its time to move on and get as much food into Revelstoke as possible,” he said. “It was a hard grind and there was a desire to take care of each other as vendors, including Hermann. The thought was we’re in a very different place and we’re going to have two very different markets.”
Melissa Hemphill, the food security coordinator for Community Connections, attempted to mediate between the two sides before the AGM, but did not have any success.
“I was able to get a good picture of both sides through the work that I did and I’m sad to see that we weren’t able to have the mediation that I felt was necessary to have one market for our community,” she said, “but I think there’s a lot of opportunity in moving forward.”
Hemphill is part of the steering committee that is working on forming a second market. Luckau said the committee will also include two business representatives, two members of the community, two members of the Local Food Initiative, and two vendors. “It’s to make sure it has the broadest spectrum possible and get everybody’s angles to make sure its a fair and democratic market,” she said.
She said the LFI would post a survey on their website to get community input into the new market.
At this point, it is not known who would be vendors, and when and where it would take place. Several vendors of the existing market have said in public and private they would join a new market.
“I think it opens up the opportunity for the community to be involved in what their market looks like,” said Hemphill. “I hope the community supports the vendors through all of this and that the community also has patience with the establishment of a new market because its pretty tricky to establish a super strong market when you’re in the middle of April.
“There’s great potential for Revelstoke to have a vibrant market that brings a lot of food options to our community.”
Laurie Donato, the city’s director of parks, recreation & culture, said the new market would need to get a business license and a special events permit. For the latter, they need comprehensive liability insurance worth $3 million, a site plan, notification and sign-off of businesses in the area, and payment to the city.
Hemphill said she was concerned about the impact this could have on vendors. “I’m worried about splitting things up and having to chose to go to one or not the other.”
Bruns, when asked if there was enough demand for a second market, said, “I think there’s room for some new vendors. I think one of the problems the current market had is it was limiting itself to the plaza so it hard to turn away vendors because there wasn’t enough space. Hopefully we can give them a home at a second market.”