Sunday, July 05, 2009

Of Farmer's Markets and Corruption

We have a farmer’s market in our community, like many others. This market is open year-round. It has two anchor stores at either end and then other farmers come in three seasons out of four and sell their wares in the middle section. The anchor stores used to be held by two large local farmers who supplemented what they grew with bananas, extra produce, and the like so that they could stay open year-round.
‘Used to be’ being the operative term. All that changed this spring. The contracts were up for renewal this spring. There were competitors, for the first time ever, and so the commission had a bidding process. A secret bidding process, mind. That alone caused outrage among much of the community. When the results were revealed it turned out the old stores had lost –big time. The new tenants had bid DOUBLE the old rent. Furthermore, they had signed the leases before the results were made public.
That might have been the end of it, if the old stores hadn’t appealed and certain other details hadn’t leaked out. Like how the bidding process was rigged –the new bidders were told what the old tenants bids were and how much over that they’d have to be to get the commission to accept their bids. Then it turned out that the new tenants were actually part of a corporate chain who was trying to take over farmer’s markets using franchises. And then it came out that the county commission had not vetted this chain –no background or credit checks even, which are required by state law. And this chain has filed for bankruptcy twice. Oh, and the final straw: the two franchise owners are….the husband and brother-in-law of the head of the county commission. Nepotism, anyone?
There was outrage. There were hearing. The local news and the mayor got involved. And in the end…nothing happened. It was all allowed to go forward. Now the main place in town for poor people to get fresh vegetables has been co-opted by corporate interests who have driven up all the prices, and ran out a lot of the small farmers as well.
Even farmer’s markets aren’t immune to corruption these days, it would seem.

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3 Comments:

Blogger SoapBoxTech said...

Infuriating, and this BS is happening all over.

7/05/2009 12:00 PM  
Blogger MoonRaven said...

Wow. How sad is that...

7/06/2009 10:05 AM  
Anonymous murph said...

Howdy Ras,

Good to see you back. Hadn't checked your site for some days.

You problems with the farmers market is a harbinger for the same all over I suspect. I have concerns with ours, sponsored by the Grange.

We keep plugging along.

7/07/2009 12:10 PM  

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