As I noted in my last post, the Ontario government has stated that farmers' markets are an extension of the farmgate. Foods prepared for sale at a farmers' market may be made in one's own home. Foods prepared for the farmgate must be prepared in a commercial kitchen. When I tell people this, I get incredulous looks. "Why?" They ask. "Health and safety regulations," I reply. "Yes, but...what does that have to do with health and safety?"
When I asked the ministry in a letter, for an explanation of this seeming inconsistency, I was informed that the minster is aware that Ontario produces some of the highest quality food in the world....the government is keen to work with farmers like us to ensure that Ontario continues to produce the highest quality food in the world....and I was advised that if our prepared foods contain more than 25% meat, not only would we be requires to produce them offsite, in a commercial kitchen, they would need to be produced in a licensed meat plant. The minister emphasized again how important it was to his government that they work with farmers like myself to ensure that Ontario continue to make great food, and so on and so forth.
Ours is not a culture that makes starting and running a small business accessible and viable, given the regulatory burdens that are not plain and straightforward, designed to address issues in a way that makes sense and is reasonable.
As small farmers, we feel squeezed by the constant demands of regulations which are costly to meet, as well as by the indifference of the general public. At markets, we present our wares, and engage with customers, but the good humour sometimes belies the tiredness that comes from the pressures that are never really eased. Regulations change and are made on whims without farmers' input. The place of the small farm in our culture is a precarious one.