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During the recent ice storm, I passed some time looking at my seed catalogs by the light of a coal-oil lamp and wishing for spring. For the past five years, I’ve prepared a huge seed order in preparation for planting my gardens and growing produce and flowers to sell at our local farmers market. I had planned to participate in the market again this year, but sadly I am unable to do so because of a rule change.
I received my copy of the rules that I must agree to abide by in order to sell at the market. These rules now include a provision that allows an executive committee to dictate what prices I must charge for my produce. They will set a base price, and I will not be allowed to sell my produce for any less than that price. I can charge higher prices, but I cannot charge lower prices than what they dictate. In the past, my prices have often been lower than many other vendors who were selling at the market. I try to offer a good product for a reasonable price. I work hard to keep my production costs down so that I can pass that savings along to my customers. Many of my customers are trying to stretch their food dollar and need value for their money. I have always taken pride in helping families put home-grown food on their tables at an affordable price. In this tough economic climate, that is more important than ever before. I cannot in good conscience charge higher prices because a committee made a rule. There will be no more bargains and no honest competition for customers at the market. In the long run the customers and the market will both suffer because of this rule change that is motivated by greed.
I pay my hard-earned money for seed and fertilizer to grow a crop. I provide the labor to grow that crop. I do all the sweating. I believe that sweat entitles me to decide the worth of what I grow. I don’t want or need a committee to do my thinking for me. I don’t want or need a committee to tell me I must charge higher prices. When they plant my garden, chop it out, control the bugs, and pick the crop they will have earned the right to tell me what prices I must charge. Until then, I’ll do my own pricing.
I am sad to end my affiliation with the Farmers Market. I helped start the market, and during the first few years was often the only person set up to sell produce. I’m just an old country hick with an independent streak. I still believe that in a free country I get to decide what price I want to charge to sell something that belongs to me. I cannot agree to abide by a rule that makes me charge higher prices than I find fair. I won’t put my name on such a thing, so I can no longer participate in the market.
I want to thank all the folks who walked through the market week after week and spent their time with me. I always learned more from them than they ever did from me. Being a part of the market was a good experience for me, and I am sorry to see it end this way.
“Jo Neal” Jordan