For the first time in 45 years, there will be no bright blue-painted Hewitts Farm Market stands in Orillia this summer.
The stands, sprinkled throughout Orillia and usually found in parking lots and roadsides, have always been popular spots for citizens and visitors to pick up corn, fresh produce and baked goods.
But not this year. And owner Trevor Hewitt says the reason is City of Orillia bylaws.
“The city has implemented bylaws over the years that have made things more difficult, and then last year they implemented another one that made it really hard to operate,” he explained.
City of Orillia bylaws require stands to grow their own crops within Orillia, Severn Township, or Ramara. Hewitts only grows their own corn, and they rely on out-of-town suppliers for other products such as produce.
“We can’t do everything, so, we concentrate on what we can do really well and then we support other local farmers that concentrate on other things,” Hewitt said.
“Peaches, for example, don’t come from anywhere except Niagara. I can’t even grow them here.”
Hewitt says the farm has tried to fight the city on their bylaws over the years, but they have run out of steam.
“Unfortunately, it’s our local city that is the hardest for us to operate in. We operate in many other local communities without any problems,” he said.
“We are just telling everybody that, unfortunately, we can no longer operate in the city, and the closest location is our home farm here on Town Line.”
Not having the corn stands in Orillia this year is expected to significantly impact sales.
“We planted the same amount of corn as normal this year, so there is a chance we will have extra corn,” Hewitt explained, adding he's hearing from people who are upset the stands are no longer in Orillia.
“We are getting 10 calls a day and a few emails from people who are wondering why they can’t find us in town. There are local citizens who don’t have the means to get out here to our home location in Warminster.”
Despite being frustrated with the difficult situation, Hewitt says the farm has turned its focus to their stands in Barrie, Bracebridge, Waubaushene, Port Severn, and Midhurst.
“Things are going good in our other communities. People love seeing our corn, people often will wait for ours specifically,” he said.
“People love the local produce and our baked goods. It’s been going really well this summer.”
Staff in the city's legislative services division said no business owner made application to operate a fruit and vegetable stand in Orillia this year.
"As per the requirements which have been in place for several years, licensed stands are only permitted to sell products grown on lands in the Townships of Severn, Ramara and Oro-Medonte," noted the official.