LETTER – Privilege, not dogs, biggest problem for farmers’ markets
MANY LOCALS will know me as a regular supporter of the Kamloops Regional Farmers Market (KRFM). I’m also its fierce defender in the face of unfair public outcry.
It’s probably no surprise that I’m weighing in on Armchair Mayor Mel Rothenburger’s recent piece on how Regional farmers’ markets should be declared “dog-free zones.”
My experience with the dogs at the market is comprehensive. I’ve shopped there for 10 years; I managed it for two years; and I volunteered there for two years. I no longer represent the market, but as a passionate advocate, I can tell you that despite what the standard compliment of social media malcontents will have you believe, dogs are the least of any outdoor market’s problems. The biggest threat to their success is privilege.
The KRFM was started in 1978, on the backs of local farmers, for the purpose of supporting local farmers. Almost 45 years later it continues to be successful, primarily thanks to farmers, as well as other food producers and artisans.
The market is a non-profit organization, run by volunteers and only two seasonal staff. What they achieve in a year is outstanding.
They participate in the B.C. Association of Farmers’ Markets’ coupon program, contributing to food security for low income families, pregnant people, and seniors. They donate an annual bursary to students furthering their learnings and career in food sovereignty.
They provide a space for charities and community groups to advertise and fundraise, free of charge. They donate to the food bank and other local charities, and collect donations on their behalf. The market brings millions of dollars into the downtown core each year, benefiting small businesses (https://bcfarmersmarket.org/economic-and-social-benefits-study/).
The farmers who attend donate food to the volunteers who keep it running, as well as to the charities that feed people in need. Finally, the market ensures local supply chains are maintained even in the face of pandemics and the climate crisis.
Speaking of crises, have you asked any farmers how their production was impacted by the devastating floods and fires of the past several years? Or have you just poked at their fruit, complained about the price, and grumbled at how you dislike all the dogs before leaving empty-handed in favour of “cleaner pastures”? If so, thankfully you’re one of a small minority. Most patrons recognize what a gift we have in the market.
Rothenburger’s listed examples of poor dog behaviour are hardly anything to write home about. The market is no stranger to the sorts of histrionics people like to display when it comes to dogs. My own favorite story is the time a market patron complained to a volunteer, “A dog licked my hand. Now I can’t use my hand! [*holds hand in air uselessly*]” (To this day my family does this for a regular laugh: e.g., “I got jam on my hand. Now I can’t use my hand!”).
Imagine being a farmer hearing this complaint: fresh in off the dusty fields during a heat dome, serving veggies harvested with your own blood, sweat and tears. Does it seem ludicrous yet?
I’d like to know how Rothenburger – and others who publicize their anti dogs-at-the-market opinion – think they’re helping the market, farmers, vendors, low income families, food security, seniors, students, charities or small businesses?
Where were all these champions of patron welfare when the KRFM was asking city council for a public washroom to serve its patrons and vendors, or when it had to pivot to online and curbside sales and manage crowds to keep folks safe during a pandemic?
Certainly dogs (or more accurately their owners) should be monitored. Other market patrons can play an important role in politely reminding people to keep an eye on their pets for safety and hygiene reasons. As a non-profit organization offering a service to the community, I would argue that this is as much your duty as a patron as it is the market’s as host.
This market is, in actuality, more of a community than a business, a fact of which many people are sadly ignorant. Sure, it’s a shame when a dog poop gets left behind, or a distracted eye misses a lifted leg and product is damaged as a result.
What would be even more shameful is if the market had to find volunteers to stand at all entrances and tell the wildfire evacuees we get here in droves every summer that, “Yes it’s very sad you’re sleeping in a tent, but unfortunately you can’t use your coupons today because we don’t allow dogs.”
Or how about, “I understand you’re a tourist who would like to support our local economy, but unfortunately your dog will have to stay in the hot camper because they might pee.”
Would you like to be the one to tell a senior that they can’t bring their trusted companion on their regular walk through the downtown core and to pick up a few veggies on the way?
No, the threat to regional markets is not the dogs. It’s the folks who want the sterile, fluorescent halls and consistency of product and pricing that for-profit, multi-national grocery facilities can offer, but on the backs of farmers… and outdoors, where it’s always sunny, there are no wildfire ashes on the peaches, the crops don’t flood, it only rains gumdrops, and there are never any dogs licking your hand.
I am a very big financial supporter (and “political” when needed) of the Kamloops Farmers market and I have been going there for years but I am seriously reconsidering my patronage over this issue. In a public food area dogs should not be allowed period! And this opinion piece by Amanda, whoever she/he/it is, is pompous nonsense at its best.
Couldn’t agree more. Thanks for sharing this.
I’m fully perplexed at this issue, if indeed it can be called an issue. Since when do the visitors, up tight or not make the rules, isn’t that the hosts responsibilities? If a patron doesn’t like the facilities, rules, regulations, etc then they are free not to frequent an establishment. They are also free to give their opinions, ideas and even whine and abuse their position in the community with useless drivel. As hosts, the KRFM can run their operation as they see fit and just ignore the old man yelling in the wind “in my day we …”.
Have you heard of brevity?
Well that’s the dustier side of the window pane! Interesting.