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Author Topic: Advice Needed
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  Off Kilter Acres
 
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Advice Needed    (Posted Sun, Oct 14 '12 at 03:13 UTC)

I am a board member of our local farmers market. To put it nicely, we have lost several vendors this year, and have had several potential vendors refuse to participate in our market due to the fact they do not like our president. The president started our market, a few years ago, and until this year there was never any interest from anyone else in being president. Our president has blatantly spent farmers market funds without consulting anyone else in the market, not even the board. Our president has failed to follow up on revision of our by-laws, approval, and adoption. Nor has a single member signed said by-laws. We received an advertising grant from the department of ag. When members of the market voted down the president's ideas for spending, and wanted to go a different route on some items, the president abandoned us for the last three weeks. When I asked the president if she had completed tasks regarding the grant that she took ownership of, the response we received was that the president was dissolving the farmers market, that all pop up tents that were the farmers market property (ten) had to be returned to her, all the supplies we purchased for signs with the grant money was also to be returned to her. The grant has not been finalized. She instructed the board to cut a check to the dept of ag for the unused monies from the grant, and that the remainder of the money in our farmers market account was to be cut on a check to a "splinter" group. she will not tell us whether things were changed in the grant to reflect changes made on some under budgeted items, and other items that were to replace things originally in the grant that they did with no input from the group. The president has advised that half of the tents will be given to this "splinter goup" but will not tell anyone who/what it is. Can she just do this? Or do we have the option of keeping our bank account (the president is NOT an authorized signer, so cannot close it), the farmers market property, and reorganizing under a different name and no longer utilizing the EIN the president obtained using their SSN? Can anyone out there give me some advice? We want to continue the farmers market and succeed without the president. The president wants to "take their ball and leave the playground".

 wvhaugen
 Ferndale
Re: Advice Needed    (Posted Sun, Oct 14 '12 at 04:54 UTC)Positive Rank

Well, hindsight is 20-20 so I won't go there. Right now, you have control of the money so that is a plus. I suggest you visit the parks/recreation subcommittee (the usual default for farmers markets for some strange reason I never understood) of the city council and get them on your side. Then they can bring the matter to the full council. It sounds hard and counter to most "fuzzie-wuzzies'" view of the world, but you need to step on this person with all the bureaucratic muscle you can get on your side. The main takeaway is to strengthen the board and learn from your mistakes.

You are already in a highly polarized conflict situation. Don't kid yourself and think you can smooth things over. It is now all about power.

Catering to the unique Ferndale perspective.
 Off Kilter Acres
Re: Advice Needed    (Posted Sun, Oct 14 '12 at 06:55 UTC)

Thank you for the advice. I was elected to the board mid season when no one else would "volunteer" for the positions, as no one really wants to work with this person. To date, we are not supported by our local city council, as the president has a reputation of sorts, and has refused to try to get their support in a more formal fashion. They allow us to operate, but otherwise will not have anything to do with us. I will see about an appointment with the City Manager and ask him if he can offer us support, if the current president is no longer involved. At this point, our concern is that the president is demanding all of the items what have been granted, or given to the farmers market to distribute as they so choose, which does not seem right to us, much less legal. The president will not provide anyone a copy of the grant so that we can figure out how to finalize the grant, and to try to see if we have options of keeping all the advertising items purchased with the grant money so that we can continue the farmers market. It is all a huge mess. We just want to put it behind us and move on as best we can. It just does not seem right the president can take everything for their own personal use or distribution.

 MistyMeadows
 Payneville
Re: Advice Needed    (Posted Sun, Oct 14 '12 at 07:07 UTC)Positive Rank

Your president does not have legal rights to any of your equipment/supplies, etc. if they were paid for by market monies. You should require that all paperwork be turned over immediately to anyone on the board. She is not the market, the whole group of you are the market.
I suggest you contact an atty that may do a letter pro bono for your market; one that comes to your market and likes it.
I have been the head of several markets and have run many of the seats on the board, sometimes a few at one time i.e. president and secretary/treasurer, but when I "resigned" my positions I returned everything right down to a stamp and pencil that was purchased through market funds.
It sounds like she like she's having grandeose delusions and you need to set this person straight in the most legal way you can.
Good luck.

 Off Kilter Acres
Re: Advice Needed    (Posted Sun, Oct 14 '12 at 08:49 UTC)

Thank you for the advice. As a matter of fact, we already bent the ear of a local attorney who is a regular customer at the farmers market, and we will be following up with him next week. Will see if he will do a letter for us pro bono.
At first we were all downhearted that our little market had to end in such an ugly manner, now we have hope that we can save it and continue on. I of course cannot list everything in this forum as it would entail writing a book. The feedback is much appreciated!

 L'il Farmer
 Big Lake, MN
Re: Advice Needed    (Posted Mon, Oct 15 '12 at 01:10 UTC)

Yes you need Leslie Knope from the Parks dept.
Sorry I couldn't help it.

Grandma's Garden, naturally raised veggies, herbs and cut flowers.
 Off Kilter Acres
Re: Advice Needed    (Posted Mon, Oct 15 '12 at 01:29 UTC)

How great would that be? :-)

 Pearl Market Manager
 Columbus
Re: Advice Needed    (Posted Wed, Oct 17 '12 at 08:02 UTC)

If you are still in need of a copy of the grant, so that you can see if you can fufilll it, contact the Dept of Ag. As the grantor, they will have a copy of the grant and I'm sure be happy to provide you with a copy. The last thing that they are going to want is the money returned to them.

 colusacountyfood
 Colusa
Re: Advice Needed    (Posted Sun, Oct 21 '12 at 12:06 UTC)

No, the LAST the the USDA wants is TAX PAYER money to be mis-spent! And Grantors have very long memories. I would contact your local USDA rep immediately and let them know what you are up against. You have already made this public information via this forum...you need to now follow up with the Grantor.

Lynda Reynolds
 Off Kilter Acres
Re: Advice Needed    (Posted Sun, Oct 21 '12 at 02:18 UTC)

Just wanted to give an update. We met with our extension agent, who is helping us work through everything to finalize the grant. We will make our deadline on everything grant related. Further, we were advised that as many believed, the tents and grant materials are the property of the farmers market, not the previous president. We are reorganizing, changing our name, electing a new board and moving forward. We may still have a fight on our hands to actually obtain the tents, login and passwords for our email newsletter service, but our extension agent is trying to help us obtain these things. Worse comes to worse, we will enlist the help of a lawyer. Fingers crossed things go smoothly with it all, and we can put this chapter behind us and move forward successfully. Thanks so much for your help and advice!

 MistyMeadows
 Payneville
Re: Advice Needed    (Posted Sun, Oct 21 '12 at 02:23 UTC)

Sounds like your feet are headed in the right direction now :) Good luck to you.

 Off Kilter Acres
Re: Advice Needed    (Posted Sun, Oct 21 '12 at 03:22 UTC)

Thanks!

 wvhaugen
 Ferndale
Re: Advice Needed    (Posted Sun, Oct 21 '12 at 07:37 UTC)

Since you seem to have your current problem well in hand, here's an idea for the future. Consider trying to get a grant to buy produce from farmers at the end of the market day and then donate the purchased produce to the local food bank, church charity, or other local group. We tried this for the Lynden, Washington Market in 2011 but were unsuccessful with two local foundations. Nevertheless, I still think it is a good idea.

You will get more farmers at your market if they have some sort of guarantee of sales. Buying $100 of produce from each of 5 farmers half an hour before the market closes for 20 weeks = $10,000. If you have more than 5 farmers, you do a coin toss, lottery or rotating system. The logistics are quite straightforward.

We are going to need some way of paying farmers a fair price SOON. The larger issue down the road is how do we get 50 million farmers in the next 5-10 years to feed the US populace once the higher gas/diesel prices shut off imports from foreign countries and from California to the east coast? Buying local will not just be a hip alternative then. Even as you are mired in day-to-day decisions, you should keep your eye on the horizon.

Catering to the unique Ferndale perspective.
 L'il Farmer
 Big Lake, MN
Re: Advice Needed    (Posted Mon, Oct 22 '12 at 02:16 UTC)

What kind of grant is that?
Our market manager wheels a wagon around at the end for donations but a grant where we got paid for it would be wonderful of course, since our donations now are not tax deductible- at least in our state.

Grandma's Garden, naturally raised veggies, herbs and cut flowers.
 idigbeets
 Laurel Highlands PA
Re: Advice Needed    (Posted Mon, Oct 22 '12 at 10:51 UTC)

Why are donations no longer tax deductible in your state? If an organization is a 501(c) charitable group, it should be.....

Glad the OP has things worked out, definitely keep us posted ! Thanks

 wvhaugen
 Ferndale
Re: Advice Needed    (Posted Mon, Oct 22 '12 at 03:57 UTC)

Whether or not donations are tax deductible should not matter. That is an example of how the corporate mindset has hijacked yet another factor of human social interaction. I would be happy to get even a dollar in donations. Getting 1000 people to give a dollar is far superior to all the hoopla and hypocrisy in getting a $1000 grant from the USDA or one of its agencies.

Catering to the unique Ferndale perspective.
 wvhaugen
 Ferndale
Re: Advice Needed    (Posted Mon, Oct 22 '12 at 04:02 UTC)

Oh and before I get snotty remarks from the nitpickers, grants from the feds, grants from state, grants from local foundations, grants from national and international foundations, cooperative partnerships, donation jars onsite, fund drives, loans that can be paid back in produce, etc., etc., etc. are just a FEW of the ways you can raise money. I am just throwing out ideas. I think the USDA does more harm than good, but most people don't think like me.

The key is to put your thinking cap on.

Catering to the unique Ferndale perspective.
 idigbeets
 Laurel Highlands PA
Re: Advice Needed    (Posted Tue, Oct 23 '12 at 12:12 UTC)

Agreed WV!

Also, I donate a lot of produce to local food kitchens in my area (well maybe not a lot to some, is 1200lbs a lot?) , a couple are able to give a tax write off, the other cannot (as it's technically not a 501c), and I don't care. I'm helping to feed people who otherwise go hungry.

Do unto others ya know!

 MistyMeadows
 Payneville
Re: Advice Needed    (Posted Tue, Oct 23 '12 at 01:54 UTC)

I can't even imagine getting 500 dollars worth of donations in one day to pay 5 farmers, $100 each for their produce. We had an apple cider festival and bought a huge crate of apples to make cider. Let people press cider from an antique cider press and then take home a quart if they wanted. We asked for donations to help defray the cost of the apples. Hundreds of people came through, pressed apples, took cider home. We got $60 in donations.

 wvhaugen
 Ferndale
Re: Advice Needed    (Posted Tue, Oct 23 '12 at 05:14 UTC)

Ah, there's the rub. People are more than willing to watch farmers go out of business because they cannot get a fair price and a fair wage, but are they willing to donate to the very people who feed them? Nope.

This lack of foresight will end when rising gas/diesel prices have risen to a tipping point. The price level of the tipping point is unknown however. Some suggest $6-8 a gallon. I don't have a good estimate myself. When that time comes, it will be to our advantage to have more farmers markets in place. Local stores will also likely toss out their onerous insurance and distribution center requirements and you will be able to actually drive to a local food store and sell your produce without nonsense.

There will also likely be "loop transport" that will drive around the county and pick up at farms for distribution to the stores and restaurants. This will have to be paid for by the retailers but the farmers will likely defray the costs by discounted prices.

Our task is to hang on until the consumer is forced to pay a fair price by the high cost of transport. This will be difficult. I see a 1-5 year timeline. It could happen as early as July 2013 if we have another crippling drought but it is likely to take longer.

Catering to the unique Ferndale perspective.
 L'il Farmer
 Big Lake, MN
Re: Advice Needed    (Posted Thu, Oct 25 '12 at 02:23 UTC)

We cannot write off food donations to the food shelf because something about already deducting the seed and materials. That is what my accountant says. You can deduct as a plain person, but not as a farm business expense.

Grandma's Garden, naturally raised veggies, herbs and cut flowers.
 marla
 Attica
Re: Advice Needed    (Posted Wed, Nov 28 '12 at 04:13 UTC)

Your accountant right, since you are in business, you are already taking the expenses of producing that produce off, or you should be. If a person is not operating a business according to IRS paperwork, they could donate and deduct as a charitable expense. In my markets, there are several people that should be operating as a business, but IMO they are probably NOT reporting their income to the IRS as income. If they did, their prices would not stay in the basement, like they are.

 MistyMeadows
 Payneville
Re: Advice Needed    (Posted Wed, Nov 28 '12 at 07:06 UTC)

But you can deduct as a donation, the difference in the cost of the seeds or plants and whatever else you used to produce that and what you would have received had you sold that item. ie. 100 lbs of potatoes selling @ $1.00 lb = $100. - the $20 it cost you to grow them. You can deduct $80.

 Jackson Garden
 Louisiana
Re: Advice Needed    (Posted Wed, Jan 9 '13 at 04:17 UTC)

Same song different verse her in Louisiana, MO. Our Chamber just called us quits. LOL doesn't matter where you go there are always spoiled sports.

Teres Whitney
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