Save the #HamOnt Farmers' Market Now!

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Due to the pandemic, Hamilton Farmers’ Market vendors were offered rent relief in the form of a 25% payment of monthly rent, for a six-month period, Apr-Sept 2020, by the City’s market staff—upon instruction by the Hamilton Farmers’ Market Board of Directors. Now this relief is being clawed back & vendors are facing demands for back-pay of 6 months of 75% rent, or else vendors will not be allowed to open up for business at the Market. 

This has led vendors to worry incredibly. Said one vendor, “I have been losing sleep. We have been here since 1993. Now I have to pay back $4000 during a pandemic that’s not going away. Where am I going to get that money?” Concerns were also raised that the City staff targeted vendors with limited English proficiency to sign the deferral documents first, without providing adequate time to review. All of this needs to change in order to show that our City values the people who sacrifice during a pandemic to operate small businesses, to provide essential services, and contribute to growing our local economy.  
 
We need to stop and acknowledge that Hamilton Farmers’ market vendors are essential workers providing essential services who:  
- stay open during the pandemic to serve customers across Hamilton
- contribute to a strong local supply chain to provide food, supplies
- offer products to meet all consumer needs, in a central location
- support a diverse local economy to survive, thrive and build back
 
In a moment of crisis when the Hamilton Farmers’ Market should have been supported by the City, vendors instead saw a significant loss of income due to City actions: 

- reduced customer traffic due to closure of doors to the Jackson square entrance, demanded by Yale Properties, who lease the municipal land
- city-ordered reduction in open market hours
- city staff decisions to cancel advertising in March-April 2020, due to staff concerns of being “overwhelmed” by customers   
- City staff incorrectly advertising the market’s open hours
- Closure of municipal parking spaces & reduction of Social bicycles in the vicinity of the market
- Footing the bill for Covid special cleaning and other items not consented to by the Board and not on the market’s budget  

At least a dozen vendors have already shuttered their businesses already as of Jan. 2021.    
 
To save the Hamilton Farmers’ Market, and to prevent further undeserved closures of essential local businesses during a Pandemic, we, the undersigned, call upon the members of Hamilton City Council to:
 
- Immediately instruct City Staff to de-link the 2021 stallholder contract from the deferral repayment document
 
-Immediately communicate with stallholders face-to face and in written documentation that the City will honour the lease terms of the 2021 stallholder contract and permit businesses to open without compulsion or obligation to sign the deferral agreement

-Immediately adopt an equity and inclusion lens as to how policy & operational issues affect the stallholders of the Hamilton Farmers’ Market. I.e. The Farmer’s Market which include a significant presence of individuals who require resources to thoroughly understand or translate written documents 

-Prioritize economic recovery of the Hamilton Farmers’ Market as an essential service, and review all strategies proposed, including those laid out by Eric Miller, former Chair of the HFM Board, in his letter of resignation.