Tempers Flare, Farmers Market Collapses

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The Yard Farmers Market from above. Photo by Scott Ball.

One by one, vendors are pulling out of The Yard Farmers and Ranchers Market following an altercation between the market owners, Heather Hunter and F. David Lent, and the owners of the food vendor and catering company Ming’s Things.

Ted Schaffer, who runs Crepelandia, a gluten-free crêpe stall, with his wife, Chef Marrisa Schaeffer, said that he returned to his stall toward the end of the market on Sunday to find one of his employees visibly shaken by the event she had just witnessed. The employee said they saw Hunter screaming profanities at Carlos Arredondo, operations manager of Ming’s Things.

Hunter’s tirade, witnessed by the surrounding customers and their children, as well as owner Ming Oian’s sixteen-year-old daughter, who was working at the booth at the time, included various expletives.

The San Antonio Express News reported that following the altercation at the market, Hunter and Lent contacted Hinnerk von Bargen, co-owner of Ming’s Things, via telephone. Hunter continued her “frenzy of profanity,” after which von Bargen said Lent embarked on a “racist hate speech and verbal threats of physical and financial harm.”

Hunter and Lent told the Express News that the argument was heated, but denied using racial epithets or that they threatened Bargen.

Comments on the article and on the Yard Farmers Market Facebook page indicate that this was not necessarily unusual behavior for Hunter and Lent. Several comments indicated that people familiar with the market owners were not surprised by the news of the altercation.

Many present and past vendors and employees, including Schaffer, cited exceptionally unprofessional behavior by the owners, extending back to the Market’s days at the Alamo Quarry. Schaffer, who grew up in the farmers market business, said all markets have their “quirks,” but that “the atmosphere created by Heather and David was uniquely negative and dictatorial.” He said that the owners would arbitrarily “single out” vendors “for favouritism or criticism.”

Market Founder Heather Hunter is interviewed at the Quarry Farmers & Ranchers Market. Photo by Scott Ball.

Market Founder Heather Hunter is interviewed by reporters at the Quarry Farmers & Ranchers Market. Photo by Scott Ball.

In an email Hunter and Lent sent to Bargen that terminated Ming’s Things’ market membership – on which she copied all market vendors – they explain why:

“Unfortunately, this is due to your inability to source healthy, local ingredients as requested, the difficulty in receiving payment for market stall fees and permit money, your underhanded tactics and your dissemination of confidential market information to unauthorized parties.”

Download the email here.

Regarding Crepelandia’s decision to leave, Schaffer said that their hand was forced by the racist component to Lent’s comments, and that they had no choice but to disassociate themselves with the Market.

Loncito Cartwright of Peaceful Pork said that although he did not witness Sunday’s altercation, he decided to leave the Market due to another incident that day. He said that the owners failed to notify vendors or customers when a tow truck arrived to remove several cars parked in an unclearly marked no-parking zone. Cartwright said that Hunter and Lent’s failure to inform people about the towing was “lazy at best.” A local chef parked her car in the tow truck’s way to delay it and give people a chance to move their cars. “That’s the way thoughtful people behave,” Cartwright commented.

“We apologize, if at times, we have seemed difficult and business-like, but in order to protect all of the vendors, we sometimes have to behave this way as the actions of any one particular vendor can threaten everyone. We also acknowledge a very disconcerting rivalry between the Quarry/Yard and the Pearl,” stated an email sent by Hunter and Lent to vendors in response to Schaeffer’s resignation. “We again apologize for subjecting you to this silly event which has been blown completely out of proportion and we feel is nothing more than a smokescreen for certain vendors to migrate over to the Pearl.”

As to Lent’s comment that the accusations against him are merely a ruse by vendors who wanted an excuse to move to the Pearl, Schaffer said that most of those who are joining the Pearl Market on Sundays were already there on Saturdays. It wasn’t an issue of choosing one market over the other—they had been intending on continuing to run booths at both, until this week’s events transpired.

Sunny days always bring out the crowds at Pearl Farmers Market. Photo by Page Graham.

Sunny days always bring out the crowds at Pearl Farmers Market. Photo by Page Graham.

Hunter and Lent did not respond to interview requests before publication.

On Sunday evening, Ming’s Things released a statement on their Facebook Page stating that they were leaving the Yard Farmers Market “due to unforeseen and unfortunate circumstances.” They added that they would be joining the new Sunday farmers market at the Pearl, where they already have a booth on Saturdays.

The Express News reported that Hunter and Lent were planning on giving their obligatory 90 day warning to terminate their lease, there is nothing on the Market’s website or Facebook page to indicate that anything has changed.

Schaeffer lamented the effect these events will have on customers and vendors who do not have an alternative option for buying or selling their goods. As for Hunter and Lent, he said, “People are suffering because of their recklessness.”

*Featured/top image: The Yard Farmers Market from above. Photo by Scott Ball.

This story was originally published on Thursday, March 20, 2015. 

Related Stories:

Pearl Adding Sunday Farmers Market

Spring Farmers Markets Begin to Blossom

Dignowity Hill Farmers Market Welcomed by Eastside

Market on the Move: The Yard Acquires the Quarry Farmers Market

Quarry Evicting Sunday Farmers Market

Pearl Farmers Market Celebrates Five Successful Years

14 thoughts on “Tempers Flare, Farmers Market Collapses

  1. Parker Creek Ranch has also decided to leave the Yard farmer’s market due to this incident, according to their FB page. It’s the right thing to do.

  2. Pretty embarrasing….but glad vendors are pulling out its the right thing to do…people have great business ideas but lets just face it doesn’t mean they should be running a business and its kind of sad that people know this is an known characteristics… I couldn’t do business with tyrants

  3. How many of you know Heather Hunter? I’ve known her since she was twelve. She ‘s sweet, nice and not a racist. Most of of you must believe what you read in the papers. She loves people from all countries and they’re cultures. She is fluent in many languages. She is not the woman that you are reading about. I cannot comment on what her husband said because I was not there that day. Hey….how perfect are you?

    • I can read between the lines here, basically what this mean is that Ms. Hunter has traveled well, into different countries and cultures and has great respect for the people and life on her travels. But here at home, she is not the happy traveler enjoying the life and culture, she is plain Heather Hunter back at home, working and not so nice. I hope she learned lesson. Is important to have the same respect for her fellow neighbor here at home too.

  4. Why do markets like this have owners, they should just gather somewhere and sell….it should be simple.

  5. In light of this event (which I was not present for) and the general changing environment of the farmers market scene in SA, perhaps something like this should be a consideration: http://www.pcfma.com/

    Pacific Coast Farmers Market Assoc. “establish[es] and operate[s] community-supported certified farmers’ markets and other direct marketing outlets that provide: viable economic opportunities for California farmers and food producers with emphasis on family farms, local access to farm fresh products, support for local businesses and community organizations, and education concerning food, nutrition and the sustainability of California agriculture.”

    Basically: a non-profit organization that provides management and guidance to markets and vendors regarding business operations, etc. I had several friends work as market managers and it seems like a really good system in place. No one person or vendor “owns” the market; everyone is equally invested, responsible, and does their share with the assistance of PCFMA.

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