Farmers’ markets brace for a potential fee hike that could put them out of business
Fears are spreading throughout the Toronto Farmers’ Market Network that participants at city markets might soon be on the receiving end of a large user fee increase from the city. Anne Freeman of the Dufferin Grove market and Carolyn Wong of Trinity Bellwoods are just two of the market organizers who have been circulating a petition in an attempt to head off the hike. “You don’t attack your food source,” a frustrated Wong told The Dish.
The concerns were sparked after a little birdie alerted market organizers that the special events permit fees that markets pay may be on the rise in a big way this fall. Currently, the fees are subject to a three per cent annual increase, but the rumour mill suggests that a much larger one may be on the horizon. If that happens, organizers warn it could mark the end of local markets as we know them.
According to the TFMN, farmers who drive into town are already struggling, with many bringing in only enough revenue to cover insurance and gas. What keeps them coming back is the direct interaction with patrons and the promotional value of immersing themselves in local communities. Many have linked up with community-supported agriculture programs or have teams to hit various markets at once to make it worth the trip to the big city. Freeman and the TFMN are using the petition—which can be signed at most markets and online—as advance leverage for the fall, when the fee increase proposal is expected.