The Farmers’ Markets Association of Manitoba has a new name, new classes of voting memberships and a new mandate.
Voting delegates of the former FMAM, organized in 2007, agreed last week to change its name to Direct Farm Marketing Association of Manitoba Co-op Inc. so it can represent the broader interests of all those who sell direct to the public.
They also gave the nod to bylaw changes that now allow the new DFMA to offer individual memberships.
The decision comes after nearly two years of discussion over how to best represent the interests of this burgeoning sector of the farm community.
“We’ve been chugging along as a little blue train trying to get over a hill for a very, very long time,” said Phil Veldhuis, who chaired FMAM’s final annual meeting March 11.
Only voting delegates representing St. Malo, St. Norbert, Carman and Oak Lake of the 39 member markets of the FMAM were present for the vote, but nearly every seat in the Ambassador E room of the Portage la Prairie Canad Inn was filled by those interested to hear their decision.
The 2015 report “Advancing the Small-Scale, Local Food Sector In Manitoba,” authored by retired chief provincial veterinarian Dr. Wayne Lees, recommended a unifying organization be formed to represent the interests of direct marketers.
“What we’ve achieved is we’ve now transitioned the farmers’ market association to that broader mandate,” said Veldhuis.
There will be two membership categories of DFMA, which is now classified as a multi-stakeholder marketing co-operative. One is for “grouped direct farmer marketers,” meaning a farmers’ market or other such group organized to direct market and operating within Manitoba. The other membership category is for individual direct marketers. Membership fees for both classes of membership are $50.
A proposed third category, defined as “support group,” to give non-producers voting membership in the new DFMA, was rejected.
Having that type of membership would confuse their new organization’s identity and make it vulnerable to non-producer influence, said Bruce Berry, a delegate from St. Norbert.
“It would give power to we don’t know who,” he said. “We’ve all been working to create a producer organization. We don’t want this complicated by votes from non-producers.”
Seven persons including Phil Veldhuis, Leanne Fenez, Brad Anderson, Stefan Regnier, Bruce Berry, Rudy Reimer and Chuck Leibert were nominated to serve on the new DFMA’s board of directors.
DFMA must now engage with policy-makers around the needs and interests of direct farmer marketers as they relate to matters such as regulation, said Veldhuis.
“Our work going forward is to participate in stakeholder conversations on ag policy to advance the interests where they’re shared among the type of producers who want to join our group,” he said.
He’s optimistic there will be many members come forward to join the new entity.
There were 80 registrants attending both days of the March 11-12 Direct Farm Marketing Conference last weekend.
“This discussion filled the room today,” he said at the close of last week’s meeting.
“We hope that will be the trend going forward and that by including more people we’ll have more energy for this. I think the rest will take care of itself.”