Last weekend I was denied access to the Lakeside farmers market. I am an organic farmer who has supported the local food movement and supplied fresh organic fruit and vegetables in the district for 25 years.
Like my colleagues who farm this way to produce healthy, safe, pesticide-free food and protect the environment, I enjoy a strong demand for my products, but under the policy of the Lakeside market management I am excluded from participating in supplying consumers at a competitive price.
According to management, "We hold a permit and pay a fee to operate a market at this site. We reserve the right to invite and include stallholders or products as we see fit, based on our stall holder selection criteria".
Rather than encouraging diversity and excluding dealers and middlemen, these "criteria" are really stifling competition by establishing a monopoly of only one organic vegetable producer at that market, when there are literally dozens whose range of varieties, quality and prices are excluded.
Imagine the Ballarat City Council providing a planning permit for only one supermarket!
If local food is to flourish and consumers and producers are allowed to operate in a free and fair marketplace, Ballarat needs to re-examine its oversight of this anti-competitive market policy and insist that proper criteria that encourage diversity and competition are applied.