We’re famous…

January 9, 2011 § Leave a comment

In January 17th’s issue of Maclean’s magazine, there is a feature article about the controversy surround the Hamilton Farmers’ Market. “Thinking local, acting loco?” is the title of Andrew Potter’s article.

Here is a bit of the article:

“The catch was the new Soviet-style application procedure that required vendors to ‘itemize each particular kind of produce/foodstuff sold, and to write a paragraph on how their business promoted the market and the city of Hamilton.’ Priority was giving to vendors whose goods are grown using ‘natural’ or organic methods, and produced with a 100-mile radius of the market. That’s right: the Hamilton Farmers’ Market was rebranding, pitching itself at the yuppie constituency that has transformed the traditional farmers’ market into a place where highbrow vendors sell artisanal cheese, boutique lavender, hipster cupcakes, and organic bread.”

“It doesn’t seem to have occurred to anyone at City Hall that the Hamilton Farmers’ Market is a community where the historic contributions of successive waves of immigrant vendors deeply informs what people understand as ‘local.'”

And where did the push to upscale the Hamilton Farmers’ Market come from in the first place? The answer is found in a 2006 report prepared for the city by Urban Marketing Collaborative, a Toronto-based consultancy that specializes in rebranding farmers’ markets. (It’s the same group that have Toronto the homage to Jersey Shore aesthetics that is the new Yonge-Dundas Square). In its submission to Hamilton city council, the UMC wrote, ‘The market needs to be, as it is not now, seen as a ‘cool’ place to go out to be entertained by events, activities, or even just to be seen at.’

The marriage of hipster marketing and yuppie status seeking that drive the Hamilton rethink exposes the essential fraud at the heart of the cult of local. But not everyone fell for it. As one woman said when asked about the push for to transform that market, ‘This is not some hippy heaven down here. This is Hamilton.'”

Wow. So we’ve received some national attention! The only part I dislike about the article is the phrase “exposes the essential fraud at the heart of the cult of local.” What does that mean exactly? That current local eating ideology, though trendy, is false? I don’t know. I think that this recent Farmers’ Market controversy, has taught us, if anything, that there are many ways to look at an issue. Though I believe that market process was unfair, I think that if you can buy apples or sweet potatoes from Ontario, why would you buy it from a vendor selling US produce? Better yet would be buying it from the grower. Maybe a better word than “fraud” would be “complexity.” And, as Jennifer Hompath’s open letter to Anna Bradford pointed out, plenty of immigrants eat food that require imported produce. So when the market reopens in two weeks, at the very least we’ll all have learned something about considering different aspects of any one issue, and importantly, that Hamilton citizens care about their markets!

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