PARC definition of market ‘farmer’ still being criticized

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For the second year in a row, the definition of the word “farmer” was a hot topic at the spring Market Advisory Group meeting, held at the Portlock Park portable on March 1.

MAG discussed exemption requests for the vendors who no longer qualify for the new farmer definition.

Amy Sandidge from Bareback Leather presented a delegation to the group voicing her concerns about the farmer definition and how certain vendors appear to be finding loopholes in the system.

“The issue of food vendors claiming to be farmers bothers many other vendors, including many farmers, as they appear to be taking advantage of loopholes in our rules,” she said in her presentation to the group. “The way the definition reads now has caused a lot of people stress and uncertainty about their livelihood, especially those qualifying farmers that are truly bonafide farmers.”

“It’s not really looking at what the guidelines are stating, it’s kind of sidestepping the guidelines and finding a postponement alternative that isn’t resolving the issue,” she said.

The definition was updated in the fall of 2016. The new changes to this definition include the fact that a farmer must use land classified for farming purposes and eligibility is determined by either BC Assessment notice or a BC Farmer ID card. Those who are do not fall within the definition were to appeal to the Market Advisory Group.

The definition was considered problematic because it makes certain types of farmers ineligible to sell their wares at the market. According to BC Assessment, to be classified as a farm, the owners or lessees of the land must meet a minimum gross income from farmed products. There are three thresholds depending on the size of the land. The minimum annual income from farm products on a piece of land less than 0.8 hectares in size is $10,000.

A CRD staff report on the issue recommended that all exemptions be granted due to the short notice vendors would receive if their application were to be denied. The first Saturday of market season is on March 31. Donna Johnstone, a member of the Market Advisory Group, expressed concern about having a bulk approval of exemptions and setting a precedent that would allow certain vendors to bypass the rules year after year.

Market coordinator Rob Pingle read out all of the requests for the group to determine whether or not they would be allowed to be exempt from the farmer definition. MAG recommended approval of all the exemption requests.

The group moved a request that PARC staff create an advisory committee to make changes to the definition of “farmer” in the fall, and to look at the process by which the decision is made.

For more on this story, see the March 14, 2018 issue of the Gulf Islands Driftwood newspaper, or subscribe online.

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