It started innocently enough. In late March, Mariah Morningstar, owner of Blue Ribbon Baking, which specializes in gluten free products, brought cheesecake to sell at the Yarmouth Farmers’ Community Market where she was a vendor.
She was informed she couldn’t sell cheesecake as it was not prepared in a certified kitchen. She complied, immediately took it off the menu and started working on accessing a certified kitchen.
Two weeks later (April 6) a representative of the market handed her a letter and told her to pack her things and leave.
Morningstar described how she was treated on social media and her customers responded with outrage, tremendous support and suggestions for alternate locations. Many sent emails to the market and others talked about boycotting it.
On April 10, the majority of the Yarmouth Farmers' Community Market co-operative members met at the Hawthorne Street market location. A unanimous vote was held for a new board of directors.
The executive board now consists of president Carmen Comeau, vice-president Shelley Vail, secretary Sundae Wiser and treasurer Rolande Harris, along with five other members to complete the board.
Comeau posted on social media that an appeal concerning Morningstar would be reviewed at the first board meeting, which would be held as soon as possible.
“We, as a community, all want the market to not only succeed but thrive. It must be an incubator for new small businesses run by trendsetters. Let us move on from this so we can continue to be a great place to be every Saturday morning,” she wrote.
Morningstar says she takes responsibility for her “careless decision” to bring cheesecake made at home to the farmers market.
“I did not consider that it could have affected the market in a negative way,” she said.
She added that she also had no idea it would be the catalyst for such a change within the market governance.
“I am humbled by, and proud of the stance taken by the community and the market itself to see fair practises upheld and accountability demanded, mine included,” she said. “I was overwhelmed by the generosity of the people in my town. That being said, if the new governance see fit to allow me back to the market, I would be honoured to accept.
“We all need the market to succeed, as it is how most of us make a living. I hope everyone can see it that way and move on gracefully, together,” she added.
Morningstar says she is working with Public Health Food Safety Specialist Seamus MacNeil to be sure she meets regulations for future sales.
On April 13, the new committee met and decided unanimously to reinstate Morningstar as a market vendor. She was to be issued a letter of warning pertaining to her infractions of market rules and a revised application would be needed, including permits required.
“I would like to sincerely apologize to the community for this misunderstanding but regulations must be followed to ensure the safety of our customers,” wrote Comeau.
“I would also like to assure my market members and the community at large that I will do my best to lead this cooperative with transparency, fairness and compassion,” she said.
More about the Yarmouth Farmers' Community Market
Located at 15 Hawthorne St. in Yarmouth's historic downtown, the Yarmouth Farmers’ Community Market offers a wide range of locally grown foods and artisanal crafts.
The market is open year-round every Saturday, with special additional hours in summer and December (for the holidays).
Hours of operation: 9 a.m. to 1 p.m.