Market moves to non-GMO produce

By Vicki Hyatt | Feb 26, 2014

When customers check out the Historic Haywood Farmers Market this year, they will be able to see which growers use genetically-modified seeds at a glance.

The market is working toward the goal of only accepting non-GMO produce, and beginning this year, will require any vendor growing produce from GMO seed to post signage on the product in a size large enough for consumers to readily see it.

Vendors who do not use GMO seed or other products are free to post signage indicating the choice, the revised guidelines state.

"As more study results become available, and as concern for genetically modified products becomes more apparent, we at Haywood’s Historic Farmers Market are choosing to take steps to provide GMO-free choices to customers," said Carol James, market manager. "At this producer-only market, vendors may not purchase products from others for resale but must grow their own, thereby ensuring quality and supporting local agricultural jobs."

These revised guidelines are the market's initial steps to direct the course of healthy locally grown vegetables, James said.

"Our vendors are, in general, choosing to grow produce from non-GMO seeds and starts. Any grower using GMO seeds or starts in their market production will be required to label it as such. We expect many vendors will be displaying signage indicating their choices as together we become more informed."

The Historic Haywood Farmers Market, which sets up in the Haywood Regional Theater parking lot each Wednesday and Saturday mornings through October, will open this year on Saturday, April 26.

There will be a kick-off meeting for current and interested vendors at 6:30 p.m. Tuesday, March 25 at the extension office.

James pointed out that genetically modified products are being used in much of what is purchased for animal feed and other market offerings and said market leaders are continuing to explore alternatives by networking with other farmers markets, exploring ideas for additional guidelines and enforcement.

The goal is to move toward becoming GMO-free.

Also new this year is a requirement that vendors that sell value-added products have to provide a certificate of registration from the N.C. Department of Revenue showing they pay sales tax on the products.

Growers who sell produce, plants or items that are not altered in any way for sale to the public are exempt from paying the sales tax, but those who offer items such as meats, cheese, baked goods, jams or pickles are required to collect and remit the 2 percent sales tax assessed on food items.

Those selling craft items at the market pay the same retail sales tax that’s assessed on other commodities sold in the state — which are 7 percent in Haywood County.

The Waynesville Tailgate Market, which operates during the same days and hours as the Historic Haywood Market, does not permit value-added farm products and won't be making any changes as far as the sale of products using genetically modified seeds.

"Our requirements are as usual," said Judy West, who oversees the market. "Our market is limited to fresh fruits and vegetables grown in Haywood County,"

She said vendors haven't heard a lot of customer comments about the subject.

"Probably most of them don't really know that it is," she said of the genetically modified seeds. One of the market's regular vendors, Joseph and Tara Cathey, are very involved in the issue, West said, adding the couple uses heritage seeds for their crops.

While there will be a few new rules discussed at the Waynesville Tailgate Market organizing meeting to be held at 6 p.m. Thursday, March 27, at the Farm Bureau Conference room, most have to do with things like parking, West said.

The Haywood Historic market features fresh produce from local growers, but also permits value-added food products, as well as heritage crafts. The craft items must be juried and pre-approved by the board before a vendor is allowed space. The complete market guidelines can be found www.waynesvillefarmersmarket.com.