"No faked goods," says Farmers Market protestor
The man protesting under the tarp at Sweetwaters Cafe could've been accused of raining on the Ann Arbor Farmers Market's parade if he hadn't already been beaten to it by the day's weather.
While most shoppers who took on Saturday's downpour came out for the deals and the pleasure of being able to move right or left without bumping into another shopper, Luis Vazquez came out to protest what he claims is the proliferation of secondhand baked goods at the market.
He picked the market's 90th birthday to make his point.
While kids got their faces painted and shoppers enjoyed the lower prices that diminished foot traffic can bring, Vazquez manned his perch to tell anyone who would listen about why the market's rules need to change to prohibit so-called "faked goods."
That Farmers Market vendors plant the fruits and vegetables and produce the baked goods they sell is a longstanding policy at the city-run market.
Vazquez claims that Kapnick Orchards violates the spirit, if not the letter of that policy by purchasing its baked goods from Hill and Valley Premium Bakery and reselling them at the market.
Kapnick Orchards spokesman Scott Robertello declined comment beyond characterizing Vazquez's beef as a "personal vendetta."
Vazquez's argument has fallen on deaf ears at City Hall.
In a guest post at Arbor Market Watch, a blog "dedicated to exposing the dirty underside of the Ann Arbor Farmers Market, and giving it a good spanking," Vazquez quotes an e-mail from Jeffrey Straw, Deputy Manager of the city's Parks and Recreation Department that “[the market's] rules currently state that baked goods must be produced by the vendor but the definition of 'produced' is not exclusively specific and therefore left to the decision of the market manager.”
But in Vazquez's opinion, vendors shouldn't be allowed to sell anything they don't produce from scratch. Allowing certain vendors to do so, he says, has already driven at least one vendor out of business and could do the same to others.
Molly Notarianni, manager of the Farmers Market, says that the market has investigated Kapnick and determined that it does, indeed, produce the baked goods it sells.
She declined to say that Kapnick produces the goods from scratch but did say that its practices were in line with market rules.
Case-closed, from the market's perspective.
The petition drive is Vazquez's way of showing that the Ann Arbor community sees things his way. He entertained a steady trickle of Ann Arbor residents trying to beat the rain and even got some of them to sign on.
When asked to come from underneath the tarp and into the cover provided by the Farmers Market, Vazquez declined. "I'm not allowed in there," he said, nodding toward the market.
Though he served from 2002 to 2007 on the now-defunct market commission, Vazquez and his get-up - a sandwich board cut like a slice of blueberry pie and bearing the words "NO FAKED GOODS," and a tin hat filled with cotton and designed to look like a lemon meringue pie - aren't allowed to disrupt commerce at the market.
He can still shop at the market if he wants, but he must go without the costume or the clipboard.
When Vazquez gets a critical mass of signatories to his petition - how many this entails is unclear - he will make his case to City Council, having written off the Parks and Recreation Department, which controls the market.
"I'm not anticipating too much in the way of change," he admits. "I'm just looking to make a point."
James David Dickson reports on human interest stories for AnnArbor.com. He can be reached at (734) 623-2532.