The first ever cannabis “farmers market” in Massachusetts was held on Oct. 16, amid a small group of farmers protesting the event for co-opting the term “farmer.”
The event was hosted at Resinate dispensary in Worcester, Mass. and featured information and non-infused samples from other cannabis companies. There was no produce but all the participating dispensaries cultivated their own supply.
“It was great,” said Peter DeCaro, CEO of Resinate. “I think it was a huge success for customers and patients alike. We had four vendors that were there in addition to ourselves. We had over a thousand people that came through that day.”
Along with those thousand, were about a half-dozen protestors.
Averyl Andrade, who helped organize the protest, operates a small farm in southeast Massachusetts. Thus far she has not been successful applying for a cultivator’s license under the social equity program.
“Farmers markets have been established as a means for farmers to do direct sales to customers instead of wholesalers for grocery stores,” said Andrade, noting that there technically is not an official legal definition of the term.
“I’m not dogging cultivators. My husband is a cultivator, but he is also a farmer,” said Andrade. “Until you’re standing in your fields and you’re watching your fruit trees getting pulled from the ground by the wind in a hurricane, you’re not a farmer.”
Andrade was particularly incensed by the dire economic situation most small farmers find themselves in.
In the United States, 81.6% of all farms make less than $100,000 in gross sales. Among this tier, the average farm loses $2,900 a year, according to USDA data.
“Lots of people are being forced to lease out to solar [power companies] to keep their properties. when cannabis regulation started coming out, part of it was supposed to help farmers,” said Andrade. “A 20,000 square-foot canopy of cannabis would be a game changer.”
The protesters carried signs that read “Big corporations are crushing farmers,” and “Don’t let corporate cannabis steal from the hands that feed you.”
“I hear all the time people say ‘give us a seat at the table.’ Farmers weren’t even allowed in the parking lot,” said Andrade.
The protestors were soon approached by a member of Resinate’s security team, who Andrade said heckled them and tried to intimidate them by recording and taking photos of their faces. Andrade said that DeCaro then came out in person to yell at them, but DeCaro said he never got the chance to directly speak with the protesters.
“All of a sudden the Worcester Police Department pulls up with sirens going,” said Andrade. The situation did not escalate further and the protestors soon left, just as another pair of officers showed up to work traffic detail for the busy event.
Andrade said she believes Resinate called the police on them after the brief confrontation.
DeCaro denied that he called the police on anyone that day. He said he submitted paperwork with the Worcester Police Department a few days earlier to obtain a traffic detail to help with the flow of cars, but that the detail did not arrive until after the event began.
“We called them to make sure they were showing up,” said DeCaro.“These people are social equity applicants. One of the farmers was denied a license and I believe that has caused a lot of friction with their outlook.”