Market to require GMO labeling
As farmers and artisans prepare for the coming season at Haywood’s Historic Farmers Market, new initiatives and events are in store.
During a kick-off meeting held Thursday, market leaders outlined a new policy regarding the sale of plants, seeds or produce where genetically modified organisms (GMOs) have been used.
“We’ve been listening to our vendors and our customers,” said board member Carol James, “and there seems some concern about GMOs. If you bring GMO produce, seeds or starts, you can do so, but you must label so the customers can see it.”
GMO products are those where the genetic material has been altered in a way to produce a different outcome, such as sweet corn that would usually die when sprayed with a certain herbicide used to control weeds, but were modified to be resistant to it.
James asked vendors to listen to their customers about the issue and report back to the board, as that will determine the future direction of the market.
“This has been a real hot-button issue,” she said. “For this year we are just asking that GMO products be labeled.”
Grower Tommy Boyd said that he sells out of his GMO sweet corn every time he brings it to the market.
“The USDA and the FDA both find that it is safe, and I can sell every bit I’ve got because there are enough people who want it,” Boyd said.
James said for this year, the market is just asking growers to label plant products that have a genetically modified component.
“As long as you don’t cut me out next year,” Boyd said, “because I bought two years of seed.”
James said the board will continue to look at both sides of the issue.
“The board works hard to represent what you want,” she said, “and we are vendors along with you.”
Another market change this year involved a North Carolina Department of Revenue requirement concerning the sale of certain agriculture products. If any product has a value-added component — for instance, meat that has been processed, fruits that have been made into jam or baked products — the seller must collect a 2-percent sales tax.
Those selling value-added products won’t be allowed to set up at the market without producing their state tax certicate.
For the first time this year, farmer or tailgate markets will be required to collect and keep the tax registration numbers of vendors. For those selling non-taxable products — items such as plants or garden produce that has been personally grown on their place and hasn’t been altered in form — a document stating what they sell will need to be submitted.
“You won’t need an exemption number, but you will need to fill out a statement,” James told the vendors.
The market vendors agreed to participate in a September event with extended market hours highlighting demonstrations, live animals and other points of interest. Long-term plans discussed include putting on a farm-to-table dinner, perhaps in downtown Waynesville, that will showcase local farm products, crafts and flowers.
At present the SNAP-EBT cards aren’t accepted at the market because of the extensive work required to manage such a program. James said if a volunteer would be willing to work with the program, training is available, and there’s the potential to increase market revenue by 35 percent.
Because advertising funds provided by various entities in past years won’t be available this year, the vendor rate increased to $75 annually, and other sources of revenue are being sought. One avenue is selling sponsorships on the small wagons used by customers to wheel plants or large amounts of produce to their vehicle.
Those interested in sponsoring a wagon can contact the market at email@example.com or call Market Manager Elizabeth Ure at 550-4554.
This year’s market will open April 26 and run through December. The Historic Farmers Market operated from 8 a.m. to noon each Wednesday and Saturday in the parking lot of the Haywood Arts Regional Theater.