(Multiple related stories and letters, below)

 


Scrambled politicians and bureaucrats have egg on their faces

 


From the...


Farmers fight for right to sell fresh eggs, topless carrots and beets

Produce vendors say health inspectors have been hitting hard at the Perth Farmers' Market, citing regulation infractions of ungraded eggs and processed foods, Shelley Page reports.

Shelley Page                     
The Ottawa Citizen
  September 12, 2005

In the end, the "egg police" chickened out.

Dozens of area farmers flocked to the Perth Farmer's Market this weekend expecting hefty fines -- up to $5,000 -- for doing what many of them have done for decades, if not generations: sell their fresh eggs at farmers' markets. But the Lanark District health inspectors were nowhere to be seen.

"I guess they didn't want all the bad publicity," said Lynne Parks, Perth farmers' market president, who orchestrated a rally at the morning market and also collected hundreds of signatures on a petition to go to Leona Dombrowski, the Ontario Minister of Agriculture.

At issue is not only whether the farmers can sell their ungraded eggs at market, but also whether other vendors can sell preserves, baked goods and even carrots and beets without their tops on. All vendors are confronting tougher rules.

 
 
The Perth market association has been trying for more than a year to have "farm gate" regulations extended to include the farmers' markets. "People shouldn't have to travel from farm to farm to get the fresh produce they want. That's the point of a farmers' market."

 
 

Recently, vendors said they were warned by area health inspectors they could only sell their eggs from behind their "farm gates," but not at market. Instead, they were given a list of items that were "appropriate" for sale at the market. The list included "canned pop, Popsicles, Mr. Freeze, potato chips and chewing gum."

"Chewing gum?" an incredulous Mrs. Parks asked. "All the products for sale at our market must be grown, picked and produced by the vendor. But they say we should sell chewing gum?"

The egg farmers say they feel the most threatened as health inspectors increasingly enforce an old federal law stating eggs must be graded at a grading station that has been approved by the Canadian Food Inspection Agency or build a federally-approved official egg grading station on their farms.

Grading involves candling, weighing, disinfecting and coating of eggs with a preservative to prolong the shelf-life of eggs. There is only one grading station in Perth and it's not open to small local vendors, according to Mrs. Parks.

Few of the farmers have the resources to build their own station, which would require a separate facility with two refrigerators, special sinks, solutions to rinse eggs and even a white uniform for the farmer to wear while grading the eggs. Cartons can no longer be re-used and each one must bear the name of the farm and the licence number of the egg grading facility.

The Perth market association has been trying for more than a year to have "farm gate" regulations extended to include the farmers' markets. "People shouldn't have to travel from farm to farm to get the fresh produce they want. That's the point of a farmers' market."

Mrs. Parks said the lifeblood of the farmers' market is in jeopardy as vendors selling preserves, baked goods and even carrots and beets without their tops on also face tougher rules.

Market gardener Merle Bowes said the Canadian Food Inspection Agency states all tomatoes, beets, carrots, to name a few vegetables and fruits, must be sold with the same ripeness and size "for esthetic reasons."

Mr. Bowes said under these rules, it's impossible for someone to buy "a tomato that will ripen tomorrow, another that will ripen in two days, and one that is ready to eat now. Everything is supposed to be the same."

He also said it's against the law for him to cut off the carrot or beet tops "because that is considered processing and I'm not allowed to do that."

                                           The Ottawa Citizen 2005

 

 EDITORIAL:

Silly laws pester farmers

The Ottawa Citizen

September 14, 2005

It seems not a month goes by without Ottawa Valley farmers being victimized by some heavy handed, obsolete or just plain bad piece of legislation.

Is it any wonder our rural residents are feeling increasingly forgotten, disaffected and angry?

It began in June, when Ottawa city council passed a bylaw making it illegal for people to sell goods on public roads and sidewalks.

Originally envisioned as a means of controlling street vendors in downtown Ottawa, the law also caught rural farmers in its net, effectively prohibiting them from selling apples, berries, sweet corn or other produce from roadside stands.

The move unleashed a storm of rural fury -- many farmers have been selling produce from roadside stands for generations, and rely on the income to help ends meet -- and had bylaw officer Jules Bouvier scrambling to reassure farmers their carts "will be tolerated if there's no safety concern."

There are two problems with this response, however. The first is that selective enforcement of bylaws concentrates too much power and responsibility in the hands of front-line officers, instead of the politicians and senior bureaucrats who are paid to create policy.

More disturbing is that the rural experience was not taken into account when the bylaw was drafted, and had to be treated as an afterthought.

 
 
People don't go to farmers' markets for the supermarket experience.

 
 

The same lack of foresight and consideration now threatens another rural institution: the farmers' market, which is coming under increasing attack from several federal, provincial and municipal statutes and enforcement regimes.

In particular, Lanark District health inspectors have been threatening to fine area farmers up to $5,000 each for selling ungraded eggs at the Perth farmers' market -- a violation of a federal law that says eggs must be graded (candled, weighed, disinfected and coated with preservative) before being sold.

Needless to say, small poultry farmers can't afford to have their few eggs graded, and hence run afoul of the law each time the bring them to market.

It could be argued, of course, that such prohibitions are necessary in the interest of public health and safety. Except that it's perfectly legal for farmers to sell ungraded eggs on their own property -- the eggs presumably only become hazardous once they're transported from the laying barn to the market, a miracle of science that makes a mockery of the underlying regulation.

Likewise, the Canadian Food Inspection Agency stipulates that tomatoes must all be sold with the same degree of ripeness and size, and that carrots and beets must be sold with their leafy tops intact, lest they be considered "processed."

Once again, these regulations may conceivably have some merit in a supermarket setting, but are madness when applied to farmers' markets.

People don't go to farmers' markets for the supermarket experience. Government may require that customers know what they're buying. Otherwise, leave the farmers' markets alone.

 The Ottawa Citizen 2005

 

 Letter to the Editor:

Egg grading is not a health necessity

The Ottawa Citizen
September 14, 2005

CREDIT: The Associated Press

Maureen Bostock says egg grading does not identify eggs contaminated with salmonella so the process has nothing to do with protecting consumers from food-borne disease.

 

Re: Farmers fight for right to sell fresh eggs, topless carrots and beets, Sept. 12.

Perth Farmers' Market Association is seeking a regulatory framework that makes sense for consumers. One of the issues raised that continues to confound me is the requirement for eggs to be graded.

Eggs in the shell may be contaminated with salmonella, a very serious infectious agent. Curiously, the grading of eggs does not find out whether the egg is contaminated with salmonella. In any case, salmonella can be controlled completely by cooking the egg.

Why is the Ministry of Health not teaching consumers how to protect themselves from salmonella?

If egg grading does not identify eggs that are contaminated with salmonella, why is the Ministry of Health insisting on treating grading as a health-protection issue?

In the United States, egg grading is voluntary. The U.S. Department of Agriculture conducts an effective education program to ensure consumers know how to choose eggs in the marketplace and how to prepare them safely in the kitchen.

The Canadian and Ontario government have a responsibility to address health issues and ensure consumer safety, but they also have an obligation to do proper research and make regulations that reflect scientific facts. Requiring eggs to be graded has nothing to do with protecting us from food-borne disease.

Maureen Bostock,
Balderson,
Sweet Meadow Farm

 
 

 Letter to the Editor:

Mindless bureaucrats

Re: Farmers fight for right to sell fresh eggs, topless carrots and beets, SEPT. 12.

 
 
"If I want older factory eggs I'll buy them at the supermarket."    
                                                      
-Paul Zollmann, Almonte
  

 
 

I am tired of mindless bureaucrats attempting to protect me. I don't know who established all these silly rules but they are obviously intended for urban supermarkets, not for farmers' markets.

If I want older factory eggs I'll buy them at the supermarket. Fresh eggs you buy from farmers. I don't need them graded -- I can see for myself whether they are worth buying. And, if the eggs turn out to be bad, I'll know where they came from. No need for complicated rules.

If I want tomatoes that look like they came off a production line, I'll find them at my nearest supermarket. But edible tomatoes I buy from farmers. They may not be as pretty but they taste like tomatoes.

Government rules should protect me from undocumented chemicals in my water supply or protect me from the foul air off the Queensway.

But I don't need protection from farmers with whom I deal directly. I can look after myself.

Paul Zollmann,
Almonte

 The Ottawa Citizen 2005
 

Farmers battle bears on one hand and government rules on the other

Patrick Dare
The Ottawa Citizen

September 17, 2005

John Vanderspank, standing in his flattened cornfield, wonders who is the bigger threat to his life as a Lanark County farmer: The bear that's eating his crops or the government that's hauling him through court?

Dressed in suspenders and a T-shirt that tells government to "back off," Mr. Vanderspank is one of the most vocal government critics in Ontario on farm issues, as vice-president of the Lanark Landowners' Association. If there's a farmers' protest against the government in Eastern Ontario, Mr. Vanderspank will be there.

He's also fighting the Ontario Ministry of Natural Resources in court, charged with several illegal hunting offences stemming from a hunting protest at his farm on Ferguson Falls Road on June 19, 2004.

Mr. Vanderspank doesn't hunt, but the Ministry of Natural Resources has charged him with helping two others illegally hunt the day of the protest.

The case is getting some public attention. Mr. Vanderspank's supporters staged a noisy demonstration one day this month at the Perth courthouse, where his trial was taking place before a justice of the peace. The trial resumes Sept. 29 when legal arguments will be heard. This fight will cost Mr. Vanderspank thousands of dollars.

The court case is just the latest shot in an ongoing battle Mr. Vanderspank and some of his neighbours have had with government generally and the provincial government and Ministry of Natural Resources specifically. These farmers, who call their cause "The Rural Revolution," want the ability to run farms without excessive government interference.

That includes having a free hand to shoot animals that come onto their property to eat their crops.

In recent years, Eastern Ontario counties such as Lanark have been inundated with deer and other wildlife. In Mr. Vanderspank's case, his farm losses -- for a cash-crop operation that covers 1,000 acres of owned and rented property -- totalled $30,000 to $40,000 some years. Road accidents involving deer have become routine occurrences in Eastern Ontario.

The Ministry of Natural Resources responded by expanding the hunting season and by allowing farmers with proven crop losses to apply for Deer Removal Authorizations, which allow them, or licensed hunters they enlist, to shoot deer outside the fall hunting season.

Indeed, Mr. Vanderspank, who is charged with aiding illegal hunting of white-tailed deer and groundhogs on his property, has a removal authorization to shoot deer on his farm. He regularly updates the authorization documentation with the Ministry of Natural Resources to get new names of hunters to patrol his huge property. The wildlife situation has improved at his farm, where he grows wheat, corn and hay, as well as soybeans destined for Japan. Mr. Vanderspank figures his losses this year will be about $10,000 to $15,000.

But Mr. Vanderspank and neighbour Merle Bowes, a vegetable farmer, are angry about all of the convoluted rules, paperwork, shuttling to government offices, meetings, big public spending and intrusive officials poking around their farms. And they consider the current legal action to be a retaliation for all of the in-your-face protests they have held in the last few years.

On Wednesday, Mr. Vanderspank and Mr. Bowes, both lifelong farmers, showed some of what they have to put up with: Swaths of cornfields flattened by bears and eaten by deer and raccoons. "There's a crop worth harvesting, isn't it?" says Mr. Bowes, pointing to half an acre of his friend's destroyed corn. Mr. Vanderspank adds, "They're just rolling through my fields like crazy right now."

Given the low prices farmers are getting for their crops, the current legal battle with Natural Resources is particularly unwelcome. Mr. Bowes, who spent $20,000 on government-encouraged deer fences for his vegetable fields, says he lost $3,000 worth of vegetables in a single night last year.

"We're already dealing with enough problems: Low prices and high costs," Mr. Bowes says. "This type of damage is not bearable. Economically it's not bearable."

 
 
These farmers feel environmentalists and animal lovers have more of a say on the management of farmland than farmers who own the land and raise the crops to feed the province.

 
 

Ross Stewart, Mr. Vanderspank's lawyer, says the losses suffered by these farmers due to wildlife damage threaten their businesses. "They're just trying to protect their livelihood," Mr. Stewart says. "These are just honest, hard-working guys who I think have got caught up in some pretty extensive bureaucratic red tape."

Mr. Bowes, also a vice-president of the Lanark Landowners' Association, says he began trying to get the province to do something about the exploding deer population in 1996. "It's been nothing but frustrating," he says. "I've sat at my table in the winter time just about pulling my hair out. The best thing for me to do, because of deer, was just quit. Just quit. And it wasn't as though this was an animal that was not abundant." He doesn't even bother trying to grow corn.

These farmers feel environmentalists and animal lovers have more of a say on the management of farmland than farmers who own the land and raise the crops to feed the province.

The farmers are also upset that they are treated as potentially dangerous persons by Natural Resources staff. Government officers swooped down on Ferguson Falls last June, with a team that included a small aircraft and a canine unit. When conservation officers show up to ask questions or attend public meetings, they're wearing body armour and a gun. If Mr. Vanderspank is convicted of any of the offences he is charged with under the Fish and Wildlife Conservation Act, the possible penalties are fines of up to $25,000 or one year in jail.

"It's always been threats, it's always been enforcement and intimidation," says Mr. Vanderspank.

"I have absolutely no trust for these people," says Mr. Bowes.

Steve Aubry, enforcement supervisor for Natural Resources in Eastern Ontario, says conservation officers must enforce the law and lay charges when they see infractions of regulations. They wear protective clothing and carry sidearms, pepper spray and batons because they deal with poachers, often at night. Mr. Aubry says last year's June 19 event at Ferguson Falls was advertised as an illegal hunt, so officers were present to protect public safety, enforce the law that protects wildlife and ensure that any hunters were licensed to hunt.

The ministry says that it has given deer removal authorizations to 59 farmers in Eastern Ontario this year, paperwork that allows farmers to "harass and/or remove" deer when other methods of control have failed. Farmers apply for the permits and have a site inspection before they are granted.

The biggest controller of the deer population is the annual fall hunt. Last November's deer hunt saw 21,700 animals killed in Eastern Ontario.

The continuing friction with the Ministry of Natural Resources has taken a toll, says Mr. Vanderspank. "The stress this last couple of years, with MNR chasing me so hard, it's been unbelievable. It's been hard on my family life. You kind of end up getting possessed by it. You're always looking over your shoulder."

He hopes for an end to the legal fight.

"All we're trying to do is save our crops. We're trying to make a living. We just want to farm."

 The Ottawa Citizen 2005

 

Farmers gain angry new allies in battle to sell produce at markets

Fed up with warnings that they can't sell 'processed' foods such as eggs at markets, farmers have joined forces with the movement known for the combative phrase: 'This is our land, back off government'. Bob Rupert reports.

Bob Rupert
The Ottawa Citizen

September 17, 2005

Ontario Health Minister Leona Dombrowski got a surprise package in last week's mail.

It arrived courtesy of the Perth Farmers Market and contained a can of pop, a package of candy, two bags of potato chips and two packs of chewing gum -- all auctioned at last weekend's market.

A cover letter from market president Lynne Parks said the junk food was for the minister's "consumption," but she really wanted the minister -- and the Leeds, Grenville and Lanark District Health Unit -- to eat crow.
 
CREDIT: Bruno Schlumberger, the Ottawa Citizen

Randy Hillier, the president of the Lanark Landowners Association, staged a mock auction at the Perth Farmers market last weekend, where he 'sold' items the province considers fit to sell at a farmers' market -- canned pop, bags of chips, and candy. He calls it 'stupid, stupid' to regulate farmers' markets under food premises rules.

When inspectors checked out the Perth market on Aug. 27, they gave vendors a list of items considered "appropriate for sale" at a farmers' market. On the list were the junk food items sold in the mock auction.

The auctioneer was Lanark Landowners Association president Randy Hillier, a Perth-area electrician whose main goal in life is to get government out of people's hair. The bidders, many of them vendors, knew they were buying gifts to be sent to the health minister.

This is just the latest skirmish in an ongoing war between the provincial government and rural individuals and groups that say they are being subjected to rules and regulations intended for urban settings. They say a farmers' market is different than a supermarket and should be treated differently.

Government, on the other hand, says it has a responsibility to protect consumers. And the health unit's director of health protection, Jane Lyster, says farmers' markets have "evolved" to the point where some vendors sell food that has been processed.

The co-operation between the farmers' market and landowners' association is recent. It happened in April when the Perth market got a letter from the health unit requesting "your assistance in ensuring that only safe foods are sold at area farmers' markets.

"Presently, many vendors are offering for sale baked goods, meat, dairy, eggs or processed produce that are not exempt and must conform to applicable legislation. A farmers' market is not an extension of the farm gate."

In what Ms. Parks describes as "intimidation," the letter continues: "Hopefully this assessment will reduce the need for unacceptable food to be condemned and/or seized during market operation." (A few months after the letter was sent, Gananoque farmers' market vendor Alexander Macrae was ticketed by health unit inspectors for selling jars of pickled beets and mustard pickles. A court date has been set for Jan. 25.)

Ms. Parks says the April letter convinced the Perth market leadership they needed to get tougher in defending their own turf.

"Farmers are a gentle lot," she says. "They're stewards of the earth." So they discussed the "pros and cons" of joining forces with the aggressive, high-profile Lanark Landowners Association, which preaches and practises civil disobedience and confrontation.

Ms. Parks and Mr. Hillier both acknowledge that some rural people see it as an unholy alliance.

"I had my misgivings in the beginning," says Ms. Parks. "People see the 'This is our land, back off government' signs that have proliferated throughout the Ottawa Valley and it scares them."

But, she says, she came to realize "these are nice guys. They're not out to hurt anybody. They're just angry, and so are we."

Mr. Hillier, 47, an electrician who was born in Ottawa and ended his formal education at Grade 12, is a forceful speaker and writer who minces no words and obviously relishes his public persona and relationship with politicians and academics.

Property rights and freedom are his passion, and he has written articles titled The Rural Economy; Caught in the Line of Fire, Let's Create a New Province for Rural Ontario, and Canada, Lost on the Road to Freedom.

In The Little Country That Couldn't, first published by the Citizen on May 1, 2002, he writes: "Government and bureaucrats have instituted economic disincentives, such as taxes, into society, and created have-nots, welfare and homeless classes.

"All this is happening under the camouflage of a kinder, gentler, more just society.

"The entrenchment of collective rights in our Constitution has usurped the strength, need and importance of individual rights.

"How did we ever allow peace, order and good government to become more valuable than life, liberty and happiness?

"Canada has institutionalized discrimination, inequality and intolerance under the guise of employment equity and political correctness.

"Hard-working common people are taxed in every imaginable manner, their wealth removed and redistributed to provide multicultural programs and centres which they, unless they are members of a select group, are not allowed to use.

"The chains of subjugation are being forged in the lethargy of the people, and our children will be the ones who wear them. This forge burns hot and constant, fuelled by the inequities of our education and legal systems."

Mr. Hillier's supporters admire him for being outspoken and fearless (he says he is willing to go to jail for his principles). He basks in their applause.

But he also has his detractors. They see him as a strident, theatrical, demagogic individual who talks better than he listens.

For his own part, Mr. Hillier says he is single-minded in pursuing the values he believes in and adapts his style to suit the audience he is addressing. And he says critics of his bombastic and strident style should evaluate it by measuring his success.

"Every battle we've taken we've won," he claims. "Those who criticize us for promoting justice in this way should judge us by the results."

The volatile Mr. Hillier wasn't being Mr. Nice Guy at last week's market in Perth, where he "auctioned" off a "farm-fresh Jos. Louis" for $5 and a bag of chips for $20 to pay the cost of mailing them to the minister.

"We are challenging the law by breaking it here today," Mr. Hillier told an enthusiastic crowd.

"Come and charge us if your law is valid," he challenged, later explaining that the market had been forewarned that inspectors might "raid" last Saturday's market but later decided they were "too busy."

Mr. Hillier told the crowd it is "stupid, stupid to regulate farmers' markets under the provincial Food Premises Regulation."

And Robert Chorney, executive

director of the Farmers' Markets of Ontario, who was at the market, said his organization thought in 1994 that it had negotiated a deal, making the markets an unregulated extension of the farm gate and legalizing the sale of ungraded eggs -- the major thrust of last weekend's protest.

He says the province backed away from the deal under pressure from the food processing and retailing industries.

Mr. Chorney said his organization intends to "revive this battle" with the Ministry of Agriculture and Food. But it seems clear that markets like the one in Perth have given up on their federation's faith in negotiations and compromise in favour of a more confrontational approach from the new partnership with the landowners' association.

This week, Leeds-Grenville Landowners' Association president Jacqueline Fennell confirmed that her organization is about to go to bat for the Gananoque and Brockville farmers' markets. She says the charges against the Gananoque vendor, Mr. Macrae, "are just silliness."

"People go to farmers' markets because they know what they buy was made in somebody's house."

The health unit's Ms. Lyster says there's another side to the issue -- one that hasn't been told by the media. She says the public has a right to be protected and the health unit has an obligation to ensure that food offered for sale is safe. She says that's why farmers' markets have been defined as "premises" by provincial law.

"Our authority is in the Food Premises Regulation," she says.

Some excerpts from the Act:

* "Food" means food or drink for human consumption.

* "Food premise" means premises where food or milk is manufactured, processed, prepared, stored, handled, displayed, distributed, transported, sold or offered for sale but does not include a private residence.

* "Hazardous food" means any food that is capable of supporting the growth of pathogenic organisms or the production of toxins such as organisms.

* "Pre-packaged foods" means food that is packaged at a premise other than the premises at which it is offered for sale.

This regulation applies to all food premises except:

* Boarding houses that provider meals for fewer than 10 boarders;

* Churches, service clubs and fraternal organizations that prepare and serve meals for special events for their members and personally invited guests' bake sales.

The following retail food premises are exempt:

* Where only cold drinks are sold in or from the original container;

* Where only frozen confections are sold in the original package or wrapper ... where only hot beverages are prepared or sold ... farms selling their own farm products in the form of honey, maple syrup or unprocessed fruits, vegetables and grains.

No operator of a food premise shall store, handle, serve, process, prepare display, distribute, transport, offer for sale or sell ungraded or grade "C" eggs.

Ms. Lyster says the health unit's April letter, which the farmers' markets found intimidating, was simply an attempt to communicate. She says she sees the farmers' market-health unit relationship as a "partnership of people with a common goal -- that the public be safe."

She says that despite the farmers' market-landowners' association's defiant posture -- openly breaking the law and daring the government to do anything about it -- she would still prefer to "work with people."

And she says that when her inspectors visit the markets, most vendors are co-operative and civil. She says it was that way just three weeks ago when her inspectors were in Perth.

And as for Mr. Hillier's categorization of the law as "stupid, stupid?"

Ms. Lyster, a 30-year veteran in public health and safety, says: "We live in a wonderful country, where people have a right to say things like that. They also have a right to be wrong. I think the public health concept works and I hope others are just as interested in public health and safety as we are."

And the "ticketing" of the Gananoque vendor?

"A ticket is part of the education process. It's like a traffic ticket."

But Ms. Lyster's may find her conciliatory tone falls on deaf ears, at least for the immediate future.

Ms. Parks, a soft-spoken woman who once published a newspaper in suburban Toronto, has eyes of steel when she talks about the government's determination to prohibit her vendors from selling farm-fresh, ungraded eggs or carrots that may have a kink in them.

"Grading them is weird," she says, gesturing towards a carton of ungraded eggs on sale at last weekend's market.

"See that? One egg is bigger than the others. Do you think people care? They don't. They're here to buy two-day- or one-day-old eggs. That's all they care about.

"Ungraded eggs are legal at Alberta and British Columbia farmers markets. And people kinda like our kinky carrots. They were just picked and they taste good. That's all they care about.

"Everything sold here has to be produced by the vendor. We jury everybody. Our standard is a lot higher than the health unit's standard," Ms. Parks adds. "We're as concerned as anybody else about public safety. There's never been a case of anybody becoming ill from a farmers' market product in Ontario, and that's according to our own medical officer of health (Dr. Charles Gardner.)

"This is a huge issue. Most customers come here for health reasons. People know what they're buying here. No additives. It's more than just about grading of eggs. Vegetables will be next.

"We're doing this protest because we hope people will speak up."

She said she is pleased that Lanark County council has passed a resolution supporting farm-gate designation for farmers' markets.

Included in the package of junk food for Agriculture and Health Minister Dombrowski are hundreds of signed declarations from Perth Farmers' Market customers, which say in part:

"I am opposed to having to travel from farm to farm to make my purchases directly from the producer. It is my choice to purchase eggs and other farm products directly from producers at farmers' markets. I am in favour of extending farm-gate regulations to farmers' markets. It's my choice!"

 The Ottawa Citizen 2005

 
 

 Letter to the Editor:

Farmers want farm-gate rules at organized markets

Re: Farmers' markets must follow health rules, OCT. 24.

The issue is simple. I can no longer buy my fresh eggs from Pearl at the Perth Farmers' Market. I bought her eggs because it was from her that I first tasted "fresh eggs," which are spectacularly different in taste and texture from the eggs I buy at the big-box stores. She raises endangered species of various fowl and has traditionally sold the eggs produced at the Perth market.

She has educational displays for the delight of the smaller customers who may never have seen where eggs come from. These birds are free range, not factory birds. You needed to get there early since her very limited supply would disappear quickly. Now, since her eggs are "ungraded," it is illegal for her to sell at the market.

 
 
If health were really the issue, I shouldn't be able to buy them under any circumstances.

 
 

Officials all the way up to the federal minister of agriculture insist that this is done to protect my health. However, the reality is that if I hop in my car and drive to Pearl's farm, I can buy those eggs quite legally there. If health were really the issue, I shouldn't be able to buy them under any circumstances.

All that the farmers' markets across Ontario are trying to do is get "farm-gate rules" extended to farmers' markets. Instead of 200 or more customers jumping in their cars and driving all over the county, a couple of dozen farmers bring their legal produce to a central location, hence preserving the environment and a scarce resource.

This will hardly lead to "chaos in the food industry," as Ian MacDonald Gemmill asserts in his letter.

 
 
My wonderment increased when the market received a list of allowed things to sell, that included pop, candies, gum and other junk food that no self-respecting farmers' market would even think of selling.

 
 

I wonder what the agenda really is? My wonderment increased when the market received a list of allowed things to sell, that included pop, candies, gum and other junk food that no self-respecting farmers' market would even think of selling.

I trust the farmers at the market far more than I trust the global multinationals. At least the farmers are not distracted with the need to deliver double-digit return on investments to their shareholders. They are only concerned with delivering quality farm goods to willing customers.

It is also useful to note that any "rules" about healthy food supply ultimately originated from the people who have been doing this for a living for centuries -- the local farmer.

Hugh Chatfield, Nepean

 The Ottawa Citizen 2005

 

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