Decision needed

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It’s decision-making time for the Haliburton County Farmers Market Association (HCFMA).

More than a week on from the news we all expected – that Dysart council would not reconsider its position on implementing a $5 per vendor, per event, fee for the Haliburton farmers market to return to Head Lake Park – and we still don’t have a firm answer from HCFMA on its plans for this season.

Basically, there are three options – agree to pay the fee and return to Head Lake Park, set up at Rotary Beach or along the Head Lake boardwalk at no cost, or don’t have a market in Haliburton.

HCFMA has been clear in its position – it wants the weekly market back at Head Lake Park. Based on conversations I’ve had with people and correspondence we’ve received throughout our coverage; the public wants it back there too. While for a time it appeared Dysart council would keep coming up with reasons not to return the market to its usual home, they have made concessions in recent weeks.

It appears they’re at the end of their proverbial rope, though, with the ball now firmly back in HCFMA’s court.

While I tend to agree with the group’s position that having the market closer to downtown has multiple benefits, and they shouldn’t be forced into paying for that privilege, sometimes you just have to accept – and I am quoting Mick Jagger here – that you can’t always get what you want.

HCFMA needs to figure out how to make the best of this situation. And quickly.

I spoke to a couple of vendors this week who both said it’s been next to impossible to plan for this upcoming season. Things have stretched on so long that they’re stuck now – their loyalty to the Haliburton market meant they didn’t look elsewhere, even after it became known there were problems. It’s too late for them to apply for other markets now, so it’s either Haliburton or nothing.

HCFMA officials have claimed vendors will not support a return to Rotary Beach. They were unsure, when asked, if enough vendors could stomach the increased rates. We were told all vendors would be polled on both those points – though no results have ever been disclosed.

Marchand Lamarre, who runs the Garlicloves stall, and Heather Bramham, whose family owns Esson Creek Maple, indicated they would return under either condition. Their primary concern is ensuring there’s a market in Haliburton. If push came to shove, I’m sure most other vendors are in the same boat.

Based on email correspondence we received from Angel Taylor, a member of the HCFMA board, it would seem they’re doubling down on attempts to return to Head Lake Park without an increased cost. Taylor, speaking on behalf of the board, claimed that since the proposed fee has not undergone public consultation, and is not published in Dysart’s fee schedule, the board is uncomfortable signing off.

It’s curious we’ve been told there’s no timeline for a decision, despite HCFMA saying in early January that it was paramount a decision be made by Jan. 31, then again by Feb. 29. We’re now into March, about eight weeks away from the market’s opening. HCFMA is running out of time.