farmers markets = drama? in west vincent no less?

DSC_0210And I thought the drama surrounding farmers markets in my part of Chester County was enough.

Apparently not…..

Now there is more farmers market drama.  But what did I suspect? Or expect if it involves West Vincent Township? Shall we just call it Miller’s Market to go with the Miller Towers in Miller Township and be done with it?  Why in addition do the names Ann Marie Butera Cantrell and Sam Cantrell of Maysie’s Farm keep cropping up?  Are they the movers and the shakers who are behind the move to West Vincent from Anselma Mill? Is the Anselma Mill Market really moving from Anselma Mill to West Vincent or is the Anselma Market closing and another market opening in West Vincent? Are you able to track this because I am sure having a hard time….

So the drama with this market started when fans of the Anselma Mill’s Farmers’ and Artisans’ Market page on Facebook started seeing posts about that market closing and becoming the West Vincent Farmers Market.

Anselma on FB2

Anselma on FB3

Anselma on FB

It has been a veritable who’s on first scenario.  What is it about West Vincent that they can even (apparently) screw up a farmers market?  I love farmers markets and they are an awesome addition to communities but you have to do things properly.

wv market 1

wv market2

wv market3

wv market4

And what is the craziest thing of all with this farmers market?  How about that the land proposed to be used might actually be in Upper Uwchlan Township?  So if so, has there been a meeting there?

Who is sponsoring this market?  Is it a local municipality?  Is it a non-profit farmers’ cooperative, and if so are they registered as a non-profit? Or is it a for profit business model, and if so who is it and will they be paying the right taxes and fees, etc?  Who will be responsible to the citizens of West Vincent (or Upper Uwchlan) in cleaning up the market? It is a little hinky on parking, so where will people park?

And who the heck ANNOUNCES a market as in signs, Facebook pages and so on and so forth that has not formerly been approved?  I mean what kind of amateur hour romper room antics is this? That just makes people resent something that should equal a pleasant experience, and of course that lends itself to asking again who exactly is doing this market?  And if it is a producers market that means all farmers have to grow what they sell right?

Seems to me there are a lot of questions and that this is something yet again that West Vincent is doing in a slap dash backroom deal kind of way, doesn’t it?  Is there actual permission in tangible form from Upper Uwhclan? And why was the legal notice SO LAST MINUTE?   Does the legal notice mean there is not quite the proper zoning for such an enterprise and if so who announces a farmers market with signs and Facebook pages if they don’t have the zoning in place?

What a shame is what I say.  Farmers Markets are awesome for local economies…but when you don’t do things the right way, can it be said everyone suffers?

Farmers Market drama is so unnecessary.  Sigh…Bravo could add a new series to their reality TV roster: “The Real Farmers Markets of Chester County“….

Here is what Chickenman has to say:

Hi

West Vincent Township has been actively working to bring a Farmer’s Market to the township’s Andrew Evans Park.  Local farmer Sam Cantrell came to a township meeting on March 11, 2013 to request the use of the Township property.

 

http://www.westvincenttwp.org/images/Minutes/BOS%20Minutes%20031113.pdf 

 

This was done under new business, not public comment on non-agenda items but not published on the agenda:

 

http://www.westvincenttwp.org/images/docs/031113%20Agenda.pdf 

 

 

It was further discussed under Public Comment on April 8, 2013:

 

http://www.westvincenttwp.org/images/Minutes/BOS%20Minutes%2004-08-13.pdf

There was a question pertaining to the park property being eased against commercial activity and Clare Quinn stated that there is no easement. It was supposed to be eased as part of the DONATION to the Township, but it was never done. While Clare Quinn answered truthfully, the Township did indeed adopt a resolution AGAINST commercial activity on the property that stands today.

The township eventually elected against using most of the park, but there is just over 2 acres next to Rte 401 that the township purchased from Newt Evans and is allegedly not part of the resolution. The part of the park is actually located in UPPER UWCHLAN TOWNSHIP. There are some improvements that need to be made. In the last couple weeks, a pipe was installed in order to cross a drainage swale. Surveyors have been hustling around the location in the last week. I see signs have been popping up.

 

 

This operation has NOT YET BEEN APPROVED. Who is paying for these improvements? You are. Sustainability is a buzzword in West Vincent Township. Does Sustainability mean that the taxpayer need to underwrite the expenses of the local farmers?

 

Wait! It will be more than Farmers. It may be crafters, also. Here is the Farmer’s Market Facebook page: https://www.facebook.com/WestVincentFarmersMarket  this operation is required to be approved by the township of Upper Uwchlan and according to the video, a permit was issued (according to Ken Miller), against the zoning of Upper Uwchlan Township. Is Upper Uwchlan is starting to become like West Vincent by ignoring their laws? Did they really issue a permit? Here is the pertinent section of the West Vincent Township meeting about the Farmer’s Market:

Pt 1: http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=VRByEhLGzVU&feature=youtu.be

Pt 2: http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=lD5nx8BAWZM&feature=youtu.be

I urge everyone to watch these videos.  In Part 1, resident Frances Ellis points out that the use does not meet the criteria set forth in Upper Uwchlan zoning. In Part 2, Ken Miller is anxious to vote on this issue. The issue is discussed as if it has already been approved. Ken Miller becomes very upset when counsel advises against voting on the Farmer’s Market. It sure seems like this is a done deal, in the face of questioning that this clearly does not meet Upper Uwchlan Zoning.

What is the rush? Ken Miller needs a new outlet for his goods? This is his chance to move into a Farmer’s Market at no or little cost, at least to him. There will be plenty of cost to the township taxpayer as this moves forward. I am not against a Farmer’s Market, I think they are great. But it has to be a legal operation. Pearl’s Farm Market was shut down years ago because it’s location on Rte. 100 at Horseshoe Trail did not meet zoning.

 

Additionally,  why does the government (the taxpayer) have to finance someone else’s business? Rent the property, cover the expenses for ALL the improvements and costs. I have not seen any township video discussing how the township expenses are going to be covered. Better yet, do it on private property, where the rental income can be taxed, which supports the government operations.

There is a special township meeting currently advertised for Monday night, June 3 at 8:00 pm, (see attached), to vote on the Farmer’s Market. If you want to find out what the meeting is about, or just wish to be aware of what’s happening, you should attend.  But I bet I know how it will turn out.
wv market notice
Forward my newsletter on to your friends and neighbors.

Best wishes

Chickenman

 

funky lil’ cross promotion

On one hand people should be glad this is way out in Pottstown.  On the other hand, given what nearly occurred at Christmas 2011 in Ludwig’s Corner, people should be saddened perhaps that a small business like Funky Lil’ Kitchen in Pottstown would not be more selective in their choice of farms.

I would never suggest this small business be boycotted because they are fabulous.  They just need to be educated.

Funky Lil’ Kitchen sent the following shout out to their fans and gastronomical followers:

From: Funky Lil Kitchen [mailto:funkylilkitchen@email.com] Sent: Monday, August 06, 2012 5:15 PM Subject: Birchrun Hills Farm Dinner with Sue Miller 8/16/12

Hello Friends,

We have set up a special night with our friend, local cheesemaker and farmer Sue Miller from Birchrun Hills Farm in Chester County on Thursday august 16th from 5:30 to 8:30 p.m..

Sue is best known for her cheeses but some people do not know she also produces veal and pork.

So we have teamed up with Sue for a special 4 course Prix Fixe Dinner for $35.00 per person(plus tax and gratuity).

Sue will be on hand to talk to you about her cheeses, cheese making and her veal and pork products.

We will be taking normal reservations this evening and you will need to call FLK to reserve your spot as we have blocked open table this night since it will be the only menu available on the 16th.

The Menu is as follows:

1st course- Roasted Chorizo, Griddled Cornbread, Grilled Corn and Charred Tomato Compote

2nd course- Pork & Beans: Braised Pork, Stewed White Beans, Summer Greens

3rd course- Veal Brisket, Summer Vegetable Ragout, Herb Veloute

4th course- Assorted Cheeses, FLK Apricot & Peach Jam, Toast

*(planned menu is subject to product availability and could be altered accordingly)

We hope you can join Sue and us on the 16th for this fun summer dinner event,

Michael & Tonda

Funky Lil Kitchen is located at:
232 King Street Pottstown, PA 19464 Phone: 610.326.7400 Fax: 610.326.0746
Get more information about Funky Lil Kitchen Make a reservation at Funky Lil Kitchen


We hope you enjoyed receiving this message. However, if you’d rather not receive future E-Mails of this sort, please reply to this E-Mail with your first and last name and use the subject: “Unsubscribe”.

Wow.  It’s like West Vincent Supervisor-Farmer in the Dell Ken Miller doesn’t exist, huh?  Talk about reinvention PR.  And if this event is sold out, it means a nice chunk of change going into the farmers’ pockets, yes? I mean Birchrun Hills Farm has had issues, right? And the farmers (Ken and Sur Miller) have had issues, right? But this is all in the fevered imagination of Chickenman, right?  None of these issues exist and public documents, right?

I will be honest.  I tried to patronize Birchrun Hills Farm when my friends first started the Bryn Mawr Farmers Market ( a Farm to City Market ). I knew nothing at this point about who Ken and Sue Miller were other than farmers participating in a market I wanted to support where I used to live on the Main Line.   That being said, I am not some fluff brained creature.  I cook, I garden, I have a level of intelligence.  I went to purchase some of Birchrun Hills products at one of the very first markets in Bryn Mawr and let me tell you it was hard to do that because Sue Miller had priced for Bryn Mawr and I almost fell over with sticker shock for what it was – to be honest, Birchrun Hills  is not the only farm who prices higher for the Main Line at the Bryn Mawr Farmers Market (and yes, the prices at that market are in some cases higher than farm markets and farm stands I patronize in the Hamptons of all places!).  HOWEVER, when I tried to ask Sue Miller  questions at the time about her products instead of just blindly dumping money in her pocket, she was rude.  Not her staff, but her, the farmer/owner.  I purchased once from her and once only as a result. I mentally crossed her off my list from that point on.  If I was too annoying to her to answer a couple of simple questions without attitude, well then she did not need me as a customer.  And truthfully, the products I purchased from Birchrun Hills Farm weren’t so fabulous, attitude of farmer owner aside.

And that was before eminent domain for private gain was attempted by Sue Miller’s husband and West Vincent Supervisor Ken Miller.  That right there sealed the deal. I would just make a personal choice to boycott their products wherever I saw them. I would never advocate boycotting any small business who buys from Birchrun Hills Farm, but I have told a few of them why I will not knowingly eat anything produced off that place.  When I go to places like White Dog Cafe in Wayne, I choose menu options that do not feature Birchrun Hills Farm products.  Same for when I visit places like Di Bruno Brothers.  Same for the East Goshen Farmers Market. I support the businesses, but I will not purchase products from that farm.

Now the East Goshen Farmers Market is of course something where a couple of personalities aside I still support them overall because it is the right thing to do.  I even featured them in an article I wrote this summer a few weeks ago for The Philadelphia Inquirer.  The women who run the market (and did I mention one of the women runs Shellbark Hollow Farm, a farm whose products I actually buy ?)  act like I have the bubonic plague  because I don’t support Birchrun Hills Farm, but you know what?  They can have their issues.  I don’t come to their market weekly carrying a sign in protest and I have never been anything but pleasant.  But I can’t support a farm where one of the owners supported an attempt at eminent domain for private gain.

So if you go to Funky Lil’ Kitchen in Pottstown, just ask them what products come from Birchrun Hills Farm and eat around that part of the menu.

I don’t know.  It just seems a lil’ funky that they are so prosperous at Birchrun Hills Farm, yet others in West Vincent struggle?  Especially the oddness of what happens to West Vincent residents when  they speak out against the political machine currently running the municipality, right?

Anyway, enough about this.  Funky Lil’ Kitchen is a great place.  But they are a little far afield even for me for dinner.  There are so many other places close by.  But again, don’t boycott the restaurant.  Just ask them how to eat around one particular farm. And if you know of farms who produce similar goods, suggest them as an alternative.

Final note?  If Ken Miller straightens up and flies right for the people of West Vincent (as in ALL the people of West Vincent, not a select set) I will be happy to stop commenting about his farm even if given their ridiculous pricing alone you should consider other farms…..

when a community needs to get back to basics. and save itself.

When West Vincent Supervisor Ken Miller’s wife, Sue of Birchrun Hills Farm got up at a recent meeting to speak her peace in West Vincent, I watched it as an outsider and counted my lucky stars I did not live in West Vincent Township.  Which truthfully, I hate to say because it is a wonderful community and has a lot of beauty….or it will until the developers all have their way, but I digress.

I received something from Chickenman that has given me pause for thought (you can read it HERE.) As did a letter that was directed towards West Vincent in March.

So this letter from March seems to have something to do with some property that West Vincent used to own?  That has now a commercial use with few or no restrictions?  If this is true and they are so big on preservation, why didn’t they at least sell this land with some sort of conservation stuff to go with? Something about an old township building and whether it is in or out of compliance with use, as in was it too long ago and should prior uses be considered abandoned? And why does anyone need another “office park”?  (I hate that phrase “office park”.) Is there enough business to sustain this?  And something about waivers?  (Maybe it is just me, but as I have watched development in 3 counties in PA I always love when developers come in asking for waivers when sometimes it seems the hardship is not on them, but the community left questioning their own property rights when it comes to saying no to development.)

So back to Sue Miller, the Farmer-Supervisor’s wife.  She spoke up at this meeting, which is cool, don’t have a problem with that, it’s just the bully pulpit of it all and the irony of her words that continue to stick in people’s craw.

Sue Miller has issue with Chickenman, claims the fearless fowl is trying to put her and her hubby out of business.  Seems to me, all he is asking for is for a level playing field and honesty.   That Clare Quinn who used to work for The French and Pickering Conservation Trust while she voted for eminent domain for private gain (because nothing says conservation/preservation like eminent domain) doesn’t like Chickenman, either?  (Clare seems to live off the fat of the community in so many ways, doesn’t she?)

But why is it that any resident or other who speaks up a liar?  There seems to be a lot of residents speaking up, which generally speaking could be a divining rod to major issues, yes?

I am going to have to agree with Chickenman when he said in his e-mail June 6th that like it or not, Ken Miller is not just a private citizen but an elected official.  And as such, indeed subject to the same public scrutiny as a public official, elected or appointed.

The irony of Mrs. Miller claiming all the good people are trying to put her out of business in her township doesn’t escape me.  Since I started to pay attention to this area (they did it themselves with eminent domain), all I hear about is what is done dirty to residents, so what is she talking about?   And she speaks of Chickenman and Chickenman “Posse” (have you heard anything so stupid and paranoid?) retaliating?  Who is actually retaliating?

Mrs. Miller stood on her soapbox for quite a while, and then there were comments from the peanut gallery and this guy in the meeting who seemed like he was threatening another resident in the meeting and no one did anything? This same person also used profanity, and nothing was done?

No I don’t understand.  But I do know that there is too much nastiness in this bucolic community.

What is community?  Defined it is:

noun, plural com·mu·ni·ties.

1.a social group of any size whose members reside in a specific locality, share government, and often have a common cultural and historical heritage.
2.a locality inhabited by such a group.
3.a social, religious, occupational, or other group sharing common characteristics or interests and perceived or perceiving itself as distinct in some respect from the larger society within which it exists (usually preceded by the ): the business community; the community of scholars.
4.a group of associated nations sharing common interests or a common heritage: the community of Western Europe.
5.Ecclesiastical . a group of men or women leading a common life according to a rule.

Some people would describe West Vincent as merely rural.  The more I read, the more meeting tapes I see and hear about, I think it is positively feudal.

Ahhh yess, feudalism:

Feudalism was a set of legal and military customs in medieval Europe that flourished between the 9th and 15th centuries, which, broadly defined, was a system for structuring society around relationships derived from the holding of land in exchange for service or labour.

Although derived from the Latin word feodum or feudum (fief),[1] then in use, the term feudalism and the system it describes were not conceived of as a formal political system by the people living in the medieval period. In its classic definition, by François-Louis Ganshof (1944),[2]feudalism describes a set of reciprocal legal and military obligations among the warrior nobility, revolving around the three key concepts of lords, vassals, and fiefs.[2]

There is also a broader definition, as described by Marc Bloch (1939), that includes not only warrior nobility but all three estates of the realm: the nobility, the clerics, and the peasantry bonds of manorialism; this is sometimes referred to as a “feudal society“.

West Vincent residents, you need to be involved where you live.  Even you the McMansion dwellers.  I  can’t believe you aren’t bothered (for example) when the agendas for the meeting aren’t posted or easily found and it is the Friday before a meeting.  I mean LOOK at the website.  Agendas are public documents to be provided in a timely manner prior to a meeting.  When is the last time they posted an agenda and since I don’t live there I can’t say it was timely, but it appears by their own website to have been 4/23/2012:

04/23/12 7:30 PM:  Board of Supervisor Meeting

Written by Tammy Swavely. Posted in Event Dates – Township Meetings

05/14/12 7:30 PM:  Board of Supervisor Meeting

Written by Tammy Swavely. Posted in Event Dates – Township Meetings

Board of Supervisor Meeting at the Township Building

05/29/12 7:30 PM:  Board of Supervisor Meeting

Written by Tammy Swavely. Posted in Event Dates – Township Meetings

Board of Supervisor Meeting at the Township Building

06/04/12 Special Board of Supervisor Meeting

Written by Tammy Swavely. Posted in Event Dates – Township Meetings

06/04/12 Special Board of Supervisor Meeting

One of the oldest dumbing down tricks in the book: don’t post things in a timely fashion and keep taxpayers and residents ignorant and in the dark.  But does that violate Sunshine Laws in PA?  Or will I open a discussion on the letter of the law versus the spirit?  (If you think I do not like eminent domain, I dislike sunshine slayers as well.)

Did you know Pennsylvania has an Open Records website?  With the Right to Know Law and a handy Citizen’s Guide and FAQs?

I also can’t believe you think it’s ok when anyone threatens or bullies a resident in public at a meeting.

None of this is o.k.

It’s not my community, people, I am but a observor.  I am grateful for the community I call home (even if there has been a bit of a reach at me from there to here for my opinions), glad I got out of a community that was a political cesspool on a much larger stage that West Vincent.  (So I have indeed been there and I do get it.)

I would think you all wanted better for yourselves.  I understand how many of you are fearful or intimidation and retaliation, but the truth is these yokels only have as much power as you allow them.  Go above them on a state and federal level if you have to.

Who is your Congressman? Is it Jim Gerlach?  Show up at his town hall meetings or his freaking campaign office and ask for equal time in the community.  No incumbent is completely immune to elections, no outcome is guaranteed.  Gerlach used to be my Congressman, and I found him very easy and fair to deal with.  From a practical standpoint, his elections have also been squeakers.  He was redistricted again, so that might help, but you never know.  Those who write his campaign donation checks are not the only people an elected official will listen to in an election cycle, trust me.  And I say that as someone who does not as a matter of choice, donate to political campaigns.

Who is your state rep?  Your state senator? Get busy with them.

Community is what you make of it.  I can’t do this for you, nor can others.  A community must rally to save itself.  And it is a lot of hard work.  I know it can be frustrating, but if you are not happy with the way things are, you need to change it.

I have said it before,  and I will say it again: you live in a beautiful area.  Please fight to save it, and change the faces of who govern you.  Shine a little sunshine.  Do supervisors have term limits?  Maybe West Vincent is an example of why they should.

And to the person on the meeting tape who referred to Facebook?  I am sorry, will there be a blog burning and banning of Facebook in West Vincent?  Kindly remember what this country is founded on – you know, that little thing called the First Amendment? Just saying.