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Posted at 6:43 PM ET, 01/19/2011

Farmer ousted from Smart Market in Gainesville

By Tim Carman
tommy v image_opt.jpg TommyV's Salsa is one of the value-added vendors at the Smart Market in Gainesville. (Photo by Dayna Smith for The Washington Post)

The anonymous farmer who spoke out about the many value-added vendors at the Smart Market in Gainesville has lost her spot at the market.

Farmer Meg Campbell, who decided to drop her anonymity, e-mailed me this week to say that Jean Janssen, founder and director of Smart Markets Inc., had severed ties with Croftburn Farm Meats, which has been in Campbell's family for more than 50 years now. Campbell forwarded an e-mail in which Janssen explained the decision:

If you read the rules and regulations before you applied to join Smart Markets, you saw the careful attention paid to the "spirit of the market" paragraph which I take more seriously than anything else in the document. By no interpretation have you lived up to that challenge since you joined us, but you deliberately undermined both the spirit and letter of that paragraph with your actions and your words last week.
[As] a result of this and the other failures to live up to our standards of loyalty and teamwork and fair play, I am asking you not to return to participate in our market tomorrow or at any time in the future. Those "value-added" vendors bring just that: "value" to a winter market along with their enthusiasm and camaraderie and pleasure to be there and work together. And that is what we expect of our vendors; not just their product.

Janssen, for her part, did not want to discuss the e-mails or the reasons behind her decision, except to say that Campbell's ousting had nothing to do with the article in the Food section. In a separate e-mail, sent to Campbell almost a week before the Post article was published, the Smart Market founder expressed concerns about Campbell's repeated absences from the market and her failure to pay commission fees:

Another concern [is] your continued disregard for payment of your commission each month on a timely basis; in fact I can't remember when you paid last and my records are with our volunteer accountant so I cannot even look it up.
Our best vendors, the ones that sell the most at our markets, are the ones who come every week. And even those who are not the best at marketing their products see their sales increase each week, each month and each year if they come every week -- because they take advantage of the growth of the markets. And the growth of our markets is predicated on high-quality vendors who can be counted on to be there every week.
It is well known in this business that for every week you miss a market, it will take you at least two weeks to get back to where you were no matter how busy the market is around you. And personally I am not inclined to tout those vendors in the weekly WASH Post blurb or in the newsletter that now goes out to nearly 3000 people if I cannot count on the vendor to be on site when the customers come looking for that vendor or product.

Campbell, in her defense, said she had missed no more markets than other vendors and believes she was being held to a different standard. She also denied not keeping up with her commission fees. The farmer thinks she was ousted for being outspoken.

"It's my passion for the farmer, for the importance of farmers markets, and the importance of local agriculture," she said.

Campbell didn't know what the loss of the Smart Markets would mean to Croftburn's bottom line. She said it was too hard to gauge given the wide fluctuation in sales from week to week and the unknown growth that the markets may experience in the future.

By Tim Carman  | January 19, 2011; 6:43 PM ET
Categories:  Media, Shopping  | Tags:  Tim Carman  
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That market doesn't sound so smart to me. I think a balance needs to be struck so that farmers are supported and encouraged to attend and sell, with "value added" being the extra, afterthought. How to entice we who don't know how to cook, as one commenter mentioned, to learn to cook, and to use the winter's gifts more? I'm new to fennel this year, partly thanks to reading recipes and cooking tips on blogs or in cookbooks. I need educating on what is native and local, and foodways to love cooking it.

Posted by: lsaffell | January 19, 2011 10:57 PM | Report abuse

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