New home for Huntsville Farmers’ Market prompts review of town’s market bylaw

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With work taking place at the Canadian Tire parking lot, and fewer parking spots available to the Huntsville Farmers’ Market, the market is on the move.

Huntsville’s development services committee heard at its Wednesday, May 15 meeting that the market planned to move to the Huntsville Fair Grounds. (Opening day at the new location was Thursday, May 16.)

According to the report presented to committee, Canadian Tire dealer Ian McEwen offered another location to the market: the former Beer Store, a property that he purchased.

“The property owner offered to relocate the market to 7 Cann Street (old Beer Store property), however, the Market Board decided that this location would not meet their needs. The Market Board approached several other property owners in town and the Huntsville and District Agricultural Society, located at 407 Ravenscliffe Road, were quick to supply a letter of permission for the Market to set up on Thursdays during the market season,” wrote the Town’s Chief Bylaw Enforcement Officer, Andrew Stillar, in his report to committee.

Stillar noted that because the market, which has been at the Canadian Tire location for 30 years, would have more room at its new location, it plans on expanding, particularly since there is a waiting list of anywhere from 25 to 40 vendors who wish to participate in the market on either a full-time basis or as guest vendors.

According to Stillar, the Municipal Act authorizes municipalities to regulate such markets. Huntsville’s bylaw not only regulates the hours of operation of the markets but also the type of goods that can be sold, “so that only those producers and vendors, who sell homemade goods and home grown produce, are able to participate in the market. To ensure that there is local produce and goods for sale, the by-law also requires the markets to prioritize local vendors over those from more distant geographic locations. It also requires a set ratio of different types of vendors to ensure that there is a variety of produce and goods available and that the market may not be used as an outlet for such items as factory produced items.”

Stillar’s purpose for being before committee was to get approval in order to amend the Town’s bylaw to reflect the new location for the Huntsville Farmers’ Market. He also noted other amendments requested by both the Huntsville Farmers’ Market and the 100K Market. Both markets were seeking permission to sell wine, which he said would not present an issue as the sale would be regulated and enforced by the Alcohol and Gaming Commission of Ontario.

The other request involved the sale of eggs.  The “Ontario Ministry of Agriculture, Food and Rural Affairs regulates the sale, distribution, offering for sale, shipping, transportation and advertising of eggs and processed eggs in Ontario. Section 4 of the Regulation states that no person shall sell or distribute eggs that are ungraded eggs. The exception to this would include an egg farmer selling the eggs from their own property and that the eggs are not leaking. The 100k Market now wants to sell eggs as well. The regulations state that the eggs must be graded and inspected. The 100k Market has made assurances that this will happen before eggs are sold,” he wrote.

But before committee could discuss the requests, Stillar said he had been speaking to the manager of the Huntsville Farmers’ Market just before he went before committee. He said she questioned why there is a bylaw governing the market in the first place.

Stillar said the Huntsville Farmers’ Market is part of Farmers’ Markets of Ontario. “That’s who they carry their insurance through. They do not want to mess that up, sort of speak,” said Stillar, adding that the market has its own set of rules, which are enforced by the market manager who pays producers a visit. “They do kind of, I’ll say, police themselves in a way,” he said. “Because they don’t want to lose the whole idea of being a farmers’ market, they don’t want to lose that designation.”

Stillar said that given the surprising change of direction, he told committee that it would only be fair to also contact the manager of the 100k Market to receive their input.

Director of Development Services Derrick Hammond said some of the regulations applied by the municipal bylaw seem to be overly onerous, “like why would we care where the location is, why would we care about what certain items are there other than the guise of local produce,” he said while suggesting that the matter be deferred in order to have further discussions with the markets. He said that would give staff a better understanding to determine the level of change in the bylaw, while also answering “the fundamental question whether or not we need the bylaw.”

Committee agreed to defer the matter pending further investigation.

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19 Comments

  1. Lynn Crowder on

    Wow. That is unfortunate for the town and the farmers’ market. Not that the Canadian Tire Parking lot was the greatest spot….but the fairgrounds? Where is that?

    • Christie Johnstone on

      I think Fairgrounds are very fitting for the Farmers market ! Lots of parking space and room for lits of vendors. Easy to find and no fighting downtown traffic !

  2. As former chair of the Durham Region Farmers’ Market Association, I can assure that the Town is well within their rights to ensure that the guidelines are met for the Market. It’s been a decades long battle across Ontario to keep Farmers’ Markets from becoming Flea Markets. The insurance has strict guidelines and trust me, you want that insurance. I haven’t lived in Huntsville for a long time but I question the choice of the Ravenscliffe location as that will greatly limit pedestrian shoppers. Farmers’ Markets have long been a tool to keep downtowns active and revitalized. Moving it from the downtown could have a negative impact, both on the Market and the surrounding businesses. Bylaws governing the market may seem like a pain to some but most are put in place for the protection of both the market and the town from various litigations. Think it can’t happen? The Downtown Oshawa Farmers’ Market was the victim of a hostile takeover some years ago by what we call “Terminal Buyers and Resellers”. We lost the fight and the 80 grand market bank account. The true farmers couldn’t compete against the people who bought bulk at the food terminal and falsely sold it as “locally grown”. The real Farmers did the only thing we could do to not knuckle under to the resellers. We approached the Town of Whitby and moved our entire market of vendors to Whitby and opened a new Farmers’ Market. We had a grand opening of over 30 vendors while Downtown Oshawa had a Grand Opening of 3 vendors. Even though some of the rules put down by the Town and Farm Markets of Ontario seem stringent and limiting, they are put in place to protect Farmers’ Markets.

    • Henk Rietveld on

      Lindy:
      Great comment, especially re: parachute, non-local vendors. As for pedestrian traffic, even the old CTC location was a good long walk from downtown. My observation was that a lot of the people would drive, park in the LCBO lot and wander over. “New” site is actually more in keeping with the agricultural aspect of the market, being property administered by the Agricultural Society. I think it’s a good choice.

      • Crisco Brown on

        I share the concern about re-sellers posing as local producers. I own a property in Toronto and regularly see the trucks loading up the same mass produced vegetables which are sold in all the major supermarkets which Huntsville has a number of.
        For those of us who frequent the various Farmers Markets which Muskoka has to offer during the warmer months, its easy to tell the difference between naturally produced produced in small quantities versus those mass produced in greenhouses or abroad.
        This may not be the case for visitors or those not familiar with this phenomenon.
        I believe that its entirely reasonable that the town should continue to have a great deal of control over the markets which occur within its borders.
        Without that control there will no longer be the ability to be sure that the farmer has a place at the Farmers Market.
        I also agree with the reader who feels that the market should be a means of drawing crowds to downtown to help support the local economy.
        In many parts of the world the main st of town is closed to traffic and vendors set up against the sidewalks and the it becomes a walking street.
        Local merchants benefit from the increased walking traffic,
        Finally, its folly to consider the notion that these markets should be allowed to “police”
        themselves as they are run as private businesses. When the public good bumps up against the bottom line we know what will happen based on the experiences in other jurisdictions.
        Regulation of this type of activity is precisely why we have a local town council who can wrestle with the various issues while keeping the common good ahead of personal profit.

    • John Rivière-Anderson on

      Unfortunate relocation for the Town’s market. Central and walkable is always best, and most marketable and convivial. A Montréal Atwater-style permanent market on a revised Beer Lake Lagoon should be the ultimate goal.

  3. Huge mistake moving it to the Fairgrounds. The vendors will suffer. I know I won’t bother driving out that way. The old beer store property would be perfect! Please, rethink your decision.

  4. Karen Henkelman on

    I went to the Farmers Market on opening day (May 16) at the new location (Huntsville Fairgrounds). As I wandered from vender to vender, I heard positive comments from them about location, safety of shoppers (not having to watch for vehicular traffic), and lots of room for more venders.
    Many folks were shopping and there was lots of room for parking, easy on/off from Ravenscliffe Rd.

  5. John K. Davis on

    Great comments from all. Don’t forget that the Ravenscliffe Subdivision is on the bus route. Actually closer to downtown than The Canadian Tire store. Easy access from downtown, the Smart Centre and Hiway 11. Great organization with great products, room for expansion, lots of parking and friendly vendors. Certainly sounds like a recipe for success.

  6. Rob Millman on

    As I’m new to Huntsville, I’m unaware of where the former Beer Store was. 7 Cann St. should ring a bell, but other than that address being within a particularly congested area traffic-wise; especially in summer; I can’t picture it exactly.
    .
    I always thought that they would move the market across Roger’s Cove Dr. into the LCBO lot; but failing that; the Fair Grounds is perfect; not congested with pedestrians or traffic.

  7. Catherine Clail on

    I was present at the new location of the Farmers Market on Thursday; only the second or third time ever since moving to Huntsville a few years ago. I totally disliked the Canadian Tire parking lot location – a) no true farmers market ambiance, b) impossible to park; I walked over from the Staples parking lot and c) not many vendors. With respect to all involved, it’s no place for a Farmers Market, whereas the Fairgrounds were peaceful, there was plenty of parking and the vendors seemed more relaxed and genuine. The former beer store property would be ideal as it is much closer to the downtown and shopping locally can be a two-pronged activity every Thursday. I speak from long years of experience visiting the Farmers Markets of Cambridge, Elora and St. Jacobs, Ontario as well as Nelson, B.C.

  8. I’m of two minds here about the new location. The idea of the market drawing shoppers to the downtown area is not only a good one but a necessary one and the old beer store lot seems the perfect location. It will be beside the new Craft Beer establishment with its outdoor patio. I can see lots of people wandering around and making a morning of it. It’s not real difficult to get to. People can park their boats and just walk across the street for their products. Lots of parking. Seems ideal. There is also the possibility of using the inside space with its washrooms. Perhaps a couple of cafe style food courts, someplace to get out of the heat or rain.
    But the Agricultural Grounds are tailor made for this, isn’t it? It’s even in their mandate to promote agriculture in the area. Lots of room for expansion and larger booths, definitely no traffic problems, and lots of parking shelter from the rain & heat, and washrooms. But unless you live in the neighbourhood (which I do, wink wink) you have to drive. And yes the bus does come out this way but only if you call ahead and ask it to.
    So, can we have two days a week of markets? Thursdays at the fair grounds and Saturday downtown. I know there is one on Saturdays beside the United Church but it seems to be mostly crafts.

  9. The old beer store would be fine for the market but the parking lot is terribly bad with pot holes and could be a liability for accidents.

  10. Mary Spring on

    Change is always difficult. I am sure that people will find the time to visit the Huntsville Farmer’s Market in the new location. This will be especially true if customers can be assured that the produce and other products are fresh and as local as possible.
    Regarding bylaws, it just makes sense for the Town of Huntsville to require that the Market Managers follow the rules and regulations. How else will customers be assured that only those producers and vendors who sell homemade goods and home grown, local produce are able to participate in the market? The by-law will require the markets to prioritize local vendors over those from more distant geographic locations, when possible. Of course, there will need to be vendors from Niagra or elsewhere when the fruit season is upon us. That will bring people to the local market. The Town of Huntsville must work closely with the Market Managers.
    I look forward to a summer season with healthy locally grown fruits and vegetables. All we need now is sunshine and warmth!

  11. Brian Tapley on

    For me, having the farmers market at Canadian Tire was great because what male does not visit Canadian tire at any excuse and there was the market at the same time.
    However, one can see that the expansion of the Canadian tire store simply does not leave room for both now.
    The entire former Beer store area is a problem for Huntsville. It desperately needs to be re-purposed and I’m not much of an expert on this. Judging by the way it is sort of ignored, maybe nobody else is either.
    I do know that as time has gone by I try to avoid the King William street area at busy times. It is just too congested, no parking and few stores of interest to me anyway. I can get to the stores I want to by other routes in summer. Remember I’ve already driven 40 km just to get to town so having to go to the Fairgrounds make little real difference if I’m interested in the market.
    On the other hand the Fair Grounds seems a very good place for the market. Especially if it might be possible to grow into one of the buildings and become a more weather proof market as time goes on.
    It is a different “single purpose” stop but it is easy to find and get to, has tons of free parking and just generally a farmers market sort of “fits” with an agricultural fair ground. I hope this works for them. Some kind of food concession on market days would probably be a good thing to bring people over the mid day lunch period.

  12. Good points Brian! Also, as over the next two summers various parts of our main street will be under siege from bulldozers, putting the market over on the far side of town with fairly good access via hwy11 and Ravenscliffe, will relieve a substantial amount of traffic pressure from King William and Main St. By the time the construction has been completed, we should have all gotten the habit to just get over to Hwy 11 and to the fair grounds for our fix of FRESH and LOCAL!

  13. Gord Looker on

    Good spot for the market. I doubt if many customers ever walked to the Canadian Tire location. “Beer Lake” would be a problem spot with bumps and holes and uncertainties. Gravenhurst’s market is out on the edge of town yet very successful.

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