Farmers' market feud could cost quay lease
If farmers market vendors want to continue leasing Harbour Quay then they’re going to have to start getting along, Parks and Recreation director Scott Kenny said.
The two farmers market groups “are like the Hatfields and McCoys,” Kenny told city councillors at their Nov. 25 meeting.
The matter arose after council agreed to lease the Market Square area to the Spirit Square Farmers Market for five months commencing Nov. 1. The $275 lease covers use of the market area and storage.
More than 26 vendors that formerly set up shop at Spirit Square pulled stakes and moved their wares indoors to the First Baptist Church on Cherry Creek Road in October.
Vendors ostensibly moved because it was cold and wet outside and they wanted drier digs, Port Alberni Farmers Market spokesperson Gwen Lowe said.
Members took a vote to move and settled on Cherry Creek because it had a gym and was the most cost-efficient option, Lowe said. Five members chose to stay at Harbour Quay, she added.
Eggs, meat and produce are sold outside while crafts and baked goods are sold indoors.
There were deeper issues than just the climate, Kenny said.
“The groups don’t get along. I’d like to give them a lot in someone else’s parking lot and say ‘here — have fun,’” Kenny said of the feud. “Am I frustrated? Yes, I am.”
The schism between the two groups is old news, said Coun. Jack McLeman, who frequents the market at Harbour Quay.
“It’s always interesting to listen to who started what and when,” he said. “I was even there the day they (two groups) called the police on one another.”
Valley residents need a farmers’ market , McLeman said. “I hope they can get it sorted out.”
The splinter group will be staying at Cherry Creek but will take another vote again on going back to Harbour Quay in the spring, Lowe said.
Things are still hopping at the Spirit Square Farmers Market, Vicki Lee said. “We still have 12 vendors and we’re doing very well. The vendors who stayed here remain members of the Port Alberni Farmers Market.”
Lee said she understands why some folks may want to retreat indoors for the winter. “But come on, this is the West Coast. It’s not like we’re in Winnipeg or something.”
A steady stream of visitors still frequent the Spirit Square market. “Yes it gets windy and cool but people dress for it,” Lee said.
Council has the option of visiting a longer term lease after this one expires. “But I wouldn’t recommend a lease to either one of them if things stay the same,” Kenny said. “Work your differences out.”
Business is still business, Lee said, and business hasn’t changed since others moved to Cherry Creek.
“I’ve got a pretty steady clientele and my business hasn’t dipped since they moved.”