Beyond Organics Garden seeks to set up farmers market at Clarks Green Assembly of God

By Elizabeth Baumeister - | February 23rd, 2016 10:52 am

CLARKS GREEN — Pending the submission and approval of a zoning permit application, a new organic farmers market will come to town this spring.

At the regular borough council meeting held Wednesday, Feb. 17, David Slade, of Beyond Organics Garden, Tunkhannock, presented his plans to bring a small market, three days a week, to the Clarks Green Assembly of God, beginning May 14.

His purpose is simple: to “provide the community with a fresh source of local produce.”

Introducing himself to council members and residents present, Slade shared some of his background. The Tunkhannock resident was disabled for seven years and wheelchair-bound for about 15 months with several chronic and autoimmune diseases, before studying health and nutrition and eventually implementing an organic lifestyle.

“We went organic, we doubled the size of our garden and something interesting happened,” he said. “One by one, the seizures stopped – I was averaging about 30 seizures a day, couldn’t hold my kids – I went from 30 seizures a day in two weeks to zero, and the fibromyalgia, the arthritis, the hypersomnia, everything right after the other. In a period of about eight months, I lost 67 pounds.”

He maintains a two-acre garden in North Abington Township near the Lackawanna State Park, and his family recently moved to Tunkhannock, where they own an additional 15 acres.

Councilman David Rinaldi inquired as to his reasons for starting a new farmers market in Clarks Green, when two others already exist nearby in South Abington Township. Slade said his main reason is he believes the other markets already reached their maximum allowance of vendors. In addition, he said the location of the church is closer and on a more direct route to his North Abington Township farm.

He also plans for the Beyond Organics market to be unique from the others. For the past year, he has been conducting local educational programs on nutrition and working to raise awareness about organic foods. He hopes to implement this educational aspect into the proposed Clarks Green farmers market.

“What I’m thinking of is more than just produce that they (customers) can buy,” he said. “I’m thinking of actually having educational materials there that they can be exposed to — not just picking up a tomato…but actually picking up what’s in a tomato, actually bridging the gap between what they’re eating and what’s actually happening in their body as a consequence.”

Slade added he may also include a few other vendors, such as a raw honey provider and another farm. He is, however, open to a mandated cap of four or five vendors.

He plans to set up the market on Wednesdays, Thursdays and Fridays during the spring and summer, taking his booth down at the end of each day and re-assembling it at the beginning of the next.

Borough Solicitor Atty. Alfred Weinschenk said he reviewed the zoning ordinance with respect to Slade’s proposal and believes the market would be permitted as a temporary use. However, the zoning permit application must be made by the church, rather than Slade, to the borough zoning officer.

Palmer voices concerns

In other business, Clarks Green resident and former council member Marnie Palmer spoke briefly during the public comment section of the meeting, voicing her concerns and opinions regarding January’s work session and regular meeting.

During the regular meeting, held Jan. 20, she, along with Clarks Green resident William Toms, was interviewed by the council for a council seat vacated by former council member Pamela Osborne, who moved out of the borough shortly after the elections. A vote was made to appoint Toms, who officially filled the seat during during the Feb. 17 meeting.

“I am here to voice my concerns to council about the January work session, as well as the regular January meeting, when I asked if I might make a statement and was interrupted and bullied,” she said, adding her words were twisted by the council.

She then repeated an accusation, which she also voiced during the January meeting, that an executive session was illegally held during the January work session. She admitted to “eavesdropping” on the executive session, which she said was held “for the purpose of discussing the council vacancy.” She also accused the council of tampering with the recording of that meeting, stating the copy she requested and received on a disc did not contain the portion where the reason for the executive session was noted.

“In the 22 years that I’ve been attending council meetings, I’ve never feared for the residents of this borough, as I do now,” she said. “I did not break any laws by listening. However, council did break the law. I verified that, by speaking to the Right-To-Know Office in Harrisburg, and through the PA State Ethics Commission’s attorney. I seriously considered filing a complaint through the Attorney General’s office, but opted not to, since it would inevitably result in costs, to the very taxpayers who I faithfully served for 17 years.”

Ending with, “Shame on all who participated,” she resumed her seat in the audience.

Although the meeting moved on and no one responded to Palmer’s remarks at that time, Council President Keith Williams later commented via email, saying, “Council entered a work session due to personnel issues. We did nothing improper during that time. I believe Clarks Green residents trust us to conduct borough business effectively and efficiently.”

Weinschenk also responded after the meeting via email, saying he is unable to comment regarding the legality of the January executive session, as the borough solicitor does not attend council work sessions and he was not requested by the council to review the recording.

As to Palmer’s eavesdropping, he added, “I doubt it is criminal. However, in light of Ms. Palmer’s many years as a council member, she should have known such conduct was improper.”

The meeting also included various committee and staff reports and a brief discussion regarding a speeding problem on Fairview Road.

The next regular meeting is scheduled for 7 p.m. Wednesday, march 16 at the borough building, with a work session at 7 p.m. Wednesday, March 2 at that location.

By Elizabeth Baumeister

Reach Elizabeth Baumeister at 570-704-3943 or on Twitter @AbingtonJournal.