The St. John’s Farmer’s Market, which started as an unofficial gathering in 2007, is going legitimate. Though still without a permanent home, this spring members of the market elected to create a multi-stakeholder co-operative, with membership open to vendors and consumers, for a one time fee of $50.* Members have full voting rights.
“Before, the market was organized by a self-organized group of volunteers,” says Dave Jerome, Co-op Chair. “[The new Co-op] is just a way for the people who have interest in the market to literally have ownership of the market and really have some say over how the market is being put on.”
Also changing is the method of licensing food vendors. Because food licenses are typically designed for large scale operations, some vendors were previously unlicensed, but that won’t be the case this year. There are not, however, SWAT teams of food inspectors swooping in. Instead, the St. John’s Farmer’s Market has been working with the Provincial Government Services Center to build a new set of practices, which will take into account the small scale production in which most food vendors are engaged.
“We’re not the ones initiating the conversation,” says Jerome, “but we think it’s a positive conversation to have, because we obviously want to be creating a safe environment where consumers feel comfortable purchasing any of the products that the market is offering.”
Outwardly, things should look pretty much the same. “We don’t expect this will be a change that our consumers will notice,” says Jerome.
The co-op will start the new season on June 4th where they’ve been the last two summers, at the Lion’s Club Chalet. Where they’ll go from there, it’s hard to say. But given the number of green thumbs involved, it’s no surprise that they’re growing up and out, like rhubarb, or perhaps a nice head of lettuce.