Some Market Vendors Criticize New Forms

Says Upston of Wasem Fruit Farm: "It's more like an IRS audit"

Ann Arbor Public Market Advisory Commission meeting (March 2, 2010): In her market manager report during Tuesday’s meeting, Molly Notarianni gave a recap of the Homegrown Local Food Summit, where she’d spent most of the day.

Scott Robertello

Scott Robertello of Kapnick Orchards spoke during public commentary, criticizing proposed changes to the vendor application and inspection forms, among other things. (Photo by the writer.)

She noted that one of the market commissioners, Shannon Brines, was absent because he also had spent the day at the summit, as one of its organizers, and was wrapping up loose ends there. Though both the commission meeting and the summit have similar themes – both focused on locally grown food – The Chronicle will report on the summit in a separate article.

Tuesday’s commission meeting touched on several topics, including a proposed transfer of seniority between two market vendors, and an upcoming annual meeting with vendors on March 8. At that meeting, the commission will be getting feedback on proposed changes to the city’s vendor application and inspection forms.

The annual meeting and revisions to the forms were the focus of two speakers during public commentary. Market vendors Scott Robertello of Kapnick Orchards and Bruce Upston of Wasem Fruit Farm criticized aspects of the proposed changes, saying that too much information was being required.

Annual Vendor Meeting

Commissioners reviewed the agenda for their March 8 annual vendor meeting, to be held from 6-8 p.m. at Cobblestone Farm, 2781 Packard Road. Items on the agenda include a discussion of 2010 events at the market; an update on changes to the market facilities, the Fifth Avenue streetscape and Kerrytown area; an update from the commission’s outreach subcommittee; and a time for questions from vendors.

In addition, part of the meeting will focus on proposed changes to vendor application and inspection forms, and on getting feedback from vendors. At their February meeting, commissioners had spent considerable time discussing those changes. [See Chronicle coverage: "Market Commission Preps Vendor Meeting"] The agenda and drafts of those forms will be posted on the commission’s website.

Public Commentary

Two vendors from the Farmers Market spoke during public commentary, both of them critical about proposed changes to the vendor application and inspection forms, among other issues.

Scott Robertello of Kapnick Orchards started out by saying he was very disappointed that the city wouldn’t reimburse vendors more quickly for Project Fresh coupons – he reported that one once occasions he had to wait almost 120 days before he got reimbursed. [Project Fresh provides coupons for fresh fruit and vegetables to those enrolled in the federal Women, Infants and Children (WIC) program.] Robertello said he also is a vendor at the Garden City farmers market, a much smaller venue. There, he said, they collect coupons and reimburse vendors once a month.

Robertello also criticized communication about the upcoming meeting with vendors on March 8. He had just received the mailed notice about the meeting on March 1, even though he knew the commission had set the date more than a month ago. The new vendor application hadn’t been available on the commission’s website, he said – they needed to be more clear and upfront about what they are doing.

There were several concerns that Robertello had with the proposed vendor inspection forms. He objected to the amount of personal information that was being asked for, such as cell phone numbers. Certain people, he said, make Freedom of Information Act requests to get that kind of information to harass him. He also noted that there seemed to be a major emphasis on getting ingredients for baked goods, while other types of products didn’t require the same level of detail. He said he knew that some people had come to the commission and complained about him. [At previous meetings, Luis Vazquez has spoken during public commentary to criticize Kapnick Orchards for not following market rules on baked goods.]

Bruce Upston of Wasem Fruit Farm said he was in “total agreement” with Robertello. The proposed inspection form could take days to complete. “It’s more like an IRS audit rather than a market inspection,” he said. Upston also said he received a notice in the mail on March 1 about the March 8 meeting. Though he had known about the meeting previously, he said many vendors didn’t. The market commission could do a better job of getting the word out, he concluded, because there are significant changes in the works.

Seniority Transfer

The commission discussed a request to transfer market seniority from Ken Prielipp to Karlene Goetz. Prielipp – of HillTop Greenhouse & Farms – is retiring and has applied to transfer his seniority to Goetz, a relative who also sells at the market.

A public hearing on the transfer is set for the commission’s April 6 meeting. This is part of a standard process whenever a transfer is requested, said Molly Notarianni, market manager. The commission will then make a recommendation, which will be sent to the city’s community services administrator for a final decision.

Responding to a question from commissioner Diane Black, Notarianni said there are limited conditions under which seniority can be transferred: When someone dies, retires or the business is purchased.

After the meeting, Notarianni clarified why the status of a vendor’s seniority is valued. There is a seniority list that records how long each vendor has been selling at the market – some vendors go back several decades, she said. At 6 a.m. every Saturday, the market manager gathers with the vendors to assign stalls for the day. A vendor’s seniority determines the order in which those stall assignments are made – the most senior vendor gets first pick, and so on.

Peter Pollack told commissioners that they should plan to vote on the transfer at the April 6 meeting.

Updates from the Market Manager

Molly Notarianni reported that three potential vendors had applied to the market. One wants to sell handmade organic skin care products. Another would sell vegan baked goods, including cookies, brownies and banana bread. A third applicant proposes selling a variety of products, including chickens, eggs and basil. In addition, she said that two vendors who’ve been previously turned down – offering to sell South American baked goods and stained glass items, respectively – have made queries about applying again.

Commissioners reported that they’d received an email from someone who wanted to sell worms for use in gardening. In the email, the person inquired whether this type of item was something that the market would even consider – was it worth going through the process of applying? “I would say yes,” said commissioner Genia Service.

Other items from Notarianni’s report:

  • Starting on May 22 through August, every Saturday the nonprofit Peace, Love & Planet will be collecting plastic garden pots and trays to recycle from shoppers and vendors.
  • The farmers market and adjacent Kerrytown Market & Shops are planning an event that will include a tour of both venues, highlighting products in the market and possibly ending with a meal in the shopping complex. The shops are also interested in partnering with the market for some kind of an open house for students in the fall.
  • The Homegrown Local Food Summit focused on a “10% for Washtenaw” campaign, Notarianni reported. The goal is to get residents to spend 10% of their food budget on locally produced food. “That can only bode well for the market,” she said.

In a follow-up question from commissioner Peter Pollack, Notarianni said that replacements for the large signs in the market are still being produced. Shannon Brines had requested a change in the design, adding information to indicate that the market is open Saturdays year-round. Those changes are being made, she said.

Present: Commissioners Dave Barkman, Diane Black, Peter Pollack, and Genia Service. Also: Molly Notarianni, market manager.

Absent: Shannon Brines.

Next meeting: The commission’s next regular meeting is on Tuesday, April 6, 2010 at 5:30 p.m. in the fourth floor of the Ann Arbor District Library’s downtown building, 343 S. Fifth Ave., Ann Arbor. [confirm date]


  1. By E Mosby
    March 4, 2010 at 12:41 pm | permalink

    How much of an effort is being made to verify the claims that the products sold are indeed “organic” we just take these vendors’ word for it or is there a verification process for it?

    Thank you

  2. By Dave Askins
    March 4, 2010 at 1:19 pm | permalink

    Re: [1] and organic products at the market. The Chronicle’s December public market report contains some discussion of that issue: [link]

  3. By glenn thompson
    March 4, 2010 at 2:19 pm | permalink

    @ E Mosby
    At present there isn’t any verification of “organic” at the Ann Arbor Farmers Market. A vendor can be certified under National Organic Program but this is not required to call the product organic at the AA Market. Most of the certified vendors display a copy of their certificate. The ones I am aware of are Andrew Shelter, Wilson’s Produce, Garden Works, Tantre Farms, and Carpenter Produce.

  4. By DD
    March 4, 2010 at 2:45 pm | permalink

    The number of crafters at the Farmers Market should NOT increase. Send the stained glass person to the Artisans Market, and keep FM for food!!! If you want people to spend 10% on local food, make it easy for them by maintaining the farmers market for this purpose.

  5. By wordtothewise
    March 5, 2010 at 3:47 pm | permalink

    There are a few vendors that sell under the new program “certified authentic beyond organic” these farms are aware that the organic standards are continuously allowing products and farm practices that are not conducive to the original organic farm standards.

    The list of OMRI products allowed and disallowed continuously changes, allowing more and more items to be added than was ever intended to be used in “organic” before the goverment program.

    The new program CABO is that customers themselves inspect the farm and products and the inspection for the farms are free. Also there are not mountains of paperwork to do. Here’s a link to the site for info to the CABO certification. Certified authentic beyond organic was first introduced by long time and famous organic farmer Elliot Coleman. His article about authentic produce has been circulated world wide and more and more farms are adapting because “organic is dead” [link]

    Also, kudo’s to the advisory committee for correcting the application and inspections. However, Mr. Pollack and the advisory committee do not vote on the transfer of seniority issues as they are just an advisory committee. The market already has a vendor that did not go through the transference of seniority and a second farm was added to the original vendors stalls/ business entity.

    If preilapp is not selling his business can he give his seniority of stalls to another business entity? I don’t think so….Is the new applicant purchasingor taking over Preilapps farm or is this a new farm entity?

  6. By consumers
    March 5, 2010 at 8:15 pm | permalink

    Look at the rules.. Preillap does not file an application for transference. Goetz is suppose to apply if they are buying or taking over the preillap farm. The goetz farm will have to give up their farm for another farm?! what’s really being asked here?

  7. By Pete
    March 16, 2010 at 8:48 am | permalink

    Also note: a vendor that retires can also lease their business assets to a new entity. This was the case when Janice Kapnick retired. Her corporation Kapnick Orchards Inc. has received lease payments from the new entity Kapnick Farm Market Inc. Also note: the new entity Kapnick Farm Market Inc. then partnered with another farm, R&S Farm Inc. that also received transference along with Kapnick Farm Market Inc. It was confusing because these corporations continued to use the business name of Kapnick Orchards, and they certainly should not have been!

  8. By Luis Vazquez
    March 19, 2010 at 10:06 am | permalink

    Why is there even going to be a public hearing for the transference of seniority? Former Community Services Administrator Jayne Miller set a precedent in 2007 when she allowed Scott Robertello to transfer seniority from Kapnick’s Orchards to his own business entities without any public hearing. If I were Prielipp or Goetz and were denied the transference, I would sue the city. This is one of the reasons why I have advocated getting rid of the seniority system at the Farmers Market: because it has been corrupted, and the city does NOT HAVE THE RECORDS TO BACK UP SENIORITY CLAIMS.

    Antoher business entity that has not gone through the transference of seniority is Wasem’s Orchard. When the matriarch of the family (who held the original seniority)died in 2007, Bruce Upston and family did not file a transfer of seniority either. I have a theory as to why: According to Market Operating Rules, the successor business entity would only be able to transfer seniority to a maximum of 3 stall spaces. Wasem’s is one of the few that maintain 4 stalls at the market.

    I find it very interesting that the two vendors who spoke against application and inspection modifications at this Market Commission meeting are Scott Robertello and Bruce Upston. What have they got to hide?

  9. By Kris
    March 23, 2010 at 9:59 am | permalink

    Is it a lie when one is telling a consumer that the products they are selling are homeade (made from scratch) when they really are not? (read nov. current magazine article regarding Kapnick)

    Is fudge from a mix considered homemade? imagine if the mackinaw fudge was found to be made with mixes.. THERE is a BIG difference.
    under the new application the word”assembled” will now be used. nothing will change as one can buy froxen pre-made breads, add a few sesame or poppy seeds, bake and call it “assembled”.
    what’s wrong with adopting the “made from scratch rule” no commercial mixes or pre-made freeze and bake?

  10. By cindy
    May 1, 2010 at 1:31 am | permalink

    The market makes national news! an interesting article makes it into the wall street journal. One vendor in particular is mentioned. The article is entitled Food for thought: do you need farmers for a farmers market Growers Try to Weed Out Produce Poseurs as Sour Grapes Taint Blossoming Trend

    here’s the link. april 29, 2010 [link]