After nearly forty five minutes of deliberation at last night’s meeting, The Chestertown Town Council agreed to pass a motion allowing local coffee roaster and importer Tim O’Brien to sell his whole roast bean product, labeled “Cafetin” at the Chestertown Farmer’s Market for the remainder of the 2012 season.
The motion stipulated that O’Brien only sell his beans, upholding a prior decision to disallow the sale of brewed coffee, and that he do so only within the booth of Evergrain Bread Company, a willing partner which sells his brewed coffee and beans within their High Street storefront.
The motion to allow O’Brien to provisionally sell his locally crafted (not grown) product forced many other farmer market issues to the surface, from adequate and transparent communication between the council and the farmer’s market manager, Owen McCoy, to the logic of the current farmer’s market bylaws, which many believe to be inconsistent and unclear.
O’Brien formally requested that the town grant him a waiver to allow him to sell his beans at the market for the remainder of the 2012 summer season, given the that the bylaws were unclear and needed to be revised for the following year.
Town manager Bill Ingersoll said it was not up to the council to make the decision to grant a waiver, it was the farmer’s market manager’s job to do this. Furthermore, Ingersoll claimed that there is a “waiting list” which O’Brien would have to join. This also, according to Ingersoll, lies within McCoy’s purview.
Even though there were several requests to see this list it was not distributed at the meeting.
“The problem is, you propose to jump the queue, and knock somebody else out?” asked Mayor Bailey.
“No,” said O’Brien, “Actually, according to Owen, he thought it would be a very interesting idea and deferred to Bill, and in my understanding, Owen basically says he serves at the leisure of Bill–”
“No,’ said Mayor Bailey, “No–”
“–that’s not how it works–” added Ingersoll.
“Bill,” said O’Brien, “Owen essentially let me know that the [proposal] was ok with you–’
“Owen called me a week ago,” responded Ingersoll. “And he said that you had told him that I had approved you, was it ok with him?”
“No, I did not say that-” said O’Brien
“Well, I hope not,” said Ingersoll, repeatedly.
“I said,” said O’Brien, “that you did not approve it, and that ultimately it was his decision–”
“It is his decision–”
“–And I told him that,” O’Brien continued, “and he said that was fine, but he ultimately said when it went back to you again, that it was not…”
Ingersoll repeatedly referred back to McCoy as the town appointed farmer’s market administrator.
Responding to Ingersoll’s later question about why coffee roasted on the Eastern Shore “is different from someone else’s out there”, i.e. Play it Again Sam’s, which was denied a farmer’s market stall to sell their brewed coffee and whole (not locally roasted) beans three years ago, O’Brien said, “It’s a craft, artisanal product, just like the bread,” gesturing towards Doug Rae of Evergrain Bread Company, who was present throughout the meeting.
“Their grain doesn’t come from a local county. Last year, I bought maple syrup from western Maryland at the farmer’s market. So, I was unclear of the process to appeal a decision to possibly have a consideration, which is why Owen suggested I present my case to the town council.”
O’Brien’s ward representative, council member Linda Kuiper (Ward 2) spoke up, came to O’Brien’s defense.
“The Farmer’s Market is in Ward 2, and even if it’s supposed to be the number one in the state, it still has a lot of problems,” Kuiper said.
“Originally, it was the farmer’s market, and then the door was opened for artisans, and then for non-profits. I suggest that we have a door open for local business owners, I don’t care where his coffee beans come from, or where he’s roasting them, he is trying to move his business to Chestertown. Chestertown right now does not have the luxury of turning their backs to new businesses. I think we should bend over backwards for anybody who wants to come here and open a business.”
“What I think is lacking in this whole process” said Kuiper, “ is that we do not have a regular meeting, at least monthly, with Owen McCoy, with the Council…here’s the thing, there’s no communication.”
“Things changed this year,” said Mayor Bailey, “So the success of the market has bred a lot of problems, everyone wants to get involved now.”
“You need to reform your rules,” said Ingersoll.
“You know, it’s amazing,” said Mabel Mumford-Pautz, “You finally have something that’s successful, and now you want to change it! It’s ridiculous!”
“Let us, for the rest of the season, accommodate Mr. O’Brien in Evergrain’s booth until we have an opportunity this year, to look at the Farmer’s Market rules and receive for next year.” said Mayor Bailey. “Is that a motion?”
“Is that okay with you, Tim?” asked Kuiper.
“Yes,” said O’Brien, “Thank you very much.”
Four out of five votes were cast in favor of the motion, excluding that of Mabel Mumford-Pautz, who represents Ward 3.
“There’s one opposed,” said councilman Gatto, slightly sighing.
“I’m naying because you’re overriding Owen McCoy,” said Mumford-Pautz.
“No,” said Mayor Bailey, “he didn’t, he said-”
“You are too!” said Mumford Pautz. “Yes you are!”
“Well, it’s our prerogative,” said Gatto.
“It is so,” added Ward 4 council member Marty Stetson conclusively, “It’s part of our job.”
With that, the council motioned for a much needed adjournment. It was close to ten o’clock, but everyone seemed energized to start their own little conversations, filing out into the muggy night on Cross Street. O’Brien stood silently by a lamp post, having never lost his temper or raised his voice throughout the meeting, his eyes were nonetheless twinkling with delight after this small triumph.
“Well,” said Kuiper, approaching O’Brien with a smile, “Will I see you on Saturday?”
“Yes,” he replied, “You most certainly will.”