Letter: Looking for answers on shuttered farmers market

To the Editor:

A few weeks back, it was brought to my attention that the Trumbull Farmers Market was rumored to be permanently closing. The market — the longest running of its kind in Connecticut — is a valuable asset to our community, so I followed up on the hearsay and called the state Department of Agriculture and others. The department’s response, based on information from the Trumbull-Monroe Health District (TMHD), was that all is well and the closure of the market was just a rumor.

Lo and behold, Trumbull residents will find something conspicuously absent from the Long Hill Green this summer. Much to my dismay, and to the dismay of and the Dept. of Agriculture, the family that ran the Trumbull Farmers Market for years has decided this year that it just wasn’t worth the hassle.

Did they not want to do the hard labor of bringing their goods to market? Did they not want to deal with finding other local vendors wanting a place to sell their goods? No — actual market operations were going well, with high-quality, well-respected vendors wishing to bring their products for sale.

The hassle that ended Trumbull’s farmers market was overreach from the local health district.

Time after time, an exciting vendor would sign on to sell at the market to provide market-goers with the goods they came to purchase and enjoy, just to have the THMD swoop in with another arbitrary and burdensome that made vendor after vendor throw their hands up and say, “Sorry, but it’s just not worth it.”

The Trumbull Farmers Market, the oldest of its kind in the state, follows the standard practices used at similar markets throughout Connecticut. Our local health department’s requirement for commercial grade refrigeration equipment for a four hour farmers market is unreasonable and out of the norm for these types of events — all of which only require coolers for items like prepared jams and soups.

No other health district requires such high standards for farmers markets, so why are the vendors at Trumbull’s market subject to such persecution? Do they have a history of poor food handling practices? Have market-goers been getting ill from the food? The answer is a simple no.

I fully understand the value of food safety, and appreciate the work of the health district. However, the guiding principle for all these situations is reasonableness. Is the TMHD acting reasonable in their pursuit of public safety? The answer in this case is no: Cancellation of our farmers market smacks of harassment and a government agency run amok.

So this summer, when you want some fresh ripe produce, sweet home-made jam, hearty scratch-made soups, or tasty fresh-baked bread, look elsewhere. The Trumbull-Monroe Health District has decided that what you want and have enjoyed for years is no longer good for you.

The effort continues to rectify this situation.

State Rep. Dave Rutigliano (R-123)

Editor's note: For a story on this issue, including comments from TMHD Director Patrice Sulik, see story.