City staff are on a mission to define “local” when it comes to what produce should be allowed to be sold in Orillia.
After Hewitts Farm Market didn’t set up any of its stands in Orillia this year for the first time in 45 years, councillors Mason Ainsworth and Jay Fallis introduced an inquiry motion Monday that asked staff to look into the “feasibility of amending Chapter 700 of the City of Orillia Municipal Code—Business Licensing to change the definition of ‘local produce’ from ‘products grown on lands in the townships of Severn, Ramara and Oro-Medonte’ to ‘products grown on lands in the Province of Ontario.’”
Over the years, Hewitts has sold corn it grows in Severn, as well as produce from other parts of the province.
In an earlier interview with OrilliaMatters, owner Trevor Hewitt said, because of the city's bylaw, Orillia “is the hardest for us to operate in.”
“We operate in many other local communities without any problems,” he said.
Discussing the matter Monday was like déjà vu for Ainsworth, who noted he brought the same motion forward in 2016 after being approached by Hewitts, which said at the time it was difficult to find certain produce in the areas permitted under the bylaw.
“Flash forward five years now and it looks like what I said then was completely accurate — that, one day, they would pull out of the City of Orillia and those jobs would go along with them,” he said.
While he is hoping to find a solution that works for both the city and produce stand operators like Hewitts, Ainsworth noted the article included incorrect information regarding a new bylaw having been implemented last year relating to the matter.
The bylaw in question has been on the books for at least a decade, Mayor Steve Clarke said, adding enforcement happens on a complaint basis.
Coun. Rob Kloostra acknowledged city council has the ability to amend the bylaw, but he said it is there for a reason.
Hewitts can sell its corn out of the stands, and if it wants to sell produce from outside the permitted area, he said, it’s welcome to do so at the Orillia Farmers’ Market, where it’s allowed.
“If you want to bring stuff from the outside, then you’re not a local produce stand anymore,” Kloostra said.
“If you want to do things differently, open a retail store. Pay rent.”
Coun. Ted Emond said he wouldn’t support the inquiry motion to have staff look into the matter. He cited climate change as a reason the city should permit stands to sell produce only from this area.
Emond also pointed out Hewitts’ corn is available at a downtown store.
“What we're asking for in the motion is a report back from staff so that we can have an informed discussion around this,” Ainsworth responded, adding voting against something that simply seeks more information is “unfortunate.”
He questioned whether the city would go after “a little girl with a lemonade stand” because the lemons aren’t local.
Council committee passed the inquiry motion, which was amended to direct staff to consult with the Orillia food committee, Orillia Farmers’ Market advisory committee, Sustainable Orillia and local grocers, as well as to provide a brief history of the bylaw and define what “local” means in this case.