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Produce stand raises questions | Letter to the Editor
The Vashon Island Growers Association (VIGA) states that its mission is to “promote and advance agriculture on Vashon Island through education and the Farmers Market.” If that is so, then the collusion between the VIGA Board and East-West Produce would seem contradictory.
East-West Produce sets up across from the space that houses the market the day before it is held, as well as the day of the market, two hours before it opens. East-West Produce not only sells fruits from Eastern Washington that are not readily available on-island, it imports vegetables that can be found directly across the street, grown and sold by our island farmers. The proprietor, Bernie O’Malley, routinely sets his prices lower than those at the market, therefore undercutting local farmers, who cannot afford to compete. The one tip of the hat he gives to our island growers is a clause on his signage stating he buys from them “when available.”
While he may sell some island-grown produce, it is clearly the case that all of the vegetables he imports from Eastern Washington are available locally, in abundance. If East-West Produce claims to be a champion of Washington farmers, then it is hypocritical to challenge our local farmers’ livelihoods in this way.
In light of all of this, it is extremely unsettling that the owner of East-West Produce sits on the board of VIGA. This is a clear conflict of interest and runs directly counter to VIGA’s stated mission.
I think the just and appropriate thing to do would be for Mr. O’Malley to step down from the VIGA board, and further, for him to stop importing produce that can be found locally. Let’s take advantage of this opportunity to start a discussion of what true community supported agriculture looks like and how we can encourage our thriving local farming community.
— Rachel Fesler-Schnitzer