Port Orchard Farmer’s Market vendors ask for level playing field

You’d be hard-pressed to name a more universally admired and supported charitable agency in this community than the South Kitsap Helpline.

Since its founding in 1980, the local food bank has fed countless low-income families, and we’ve hailed its latest enterprise — growing its own fresh produce in the former Port Orchard Nursery facility it purchased this spring — as an innovative way to supplement that mission.

At the same time, it’s difficult to find fault with the commercial vendors doing business at the Port Orchard Farmer’s Market for pointing out that Helpline, which has operated a booth at the market only since April, is selling its merchandise for noticeably less than they do. Or can.

As a nonprofit, Helpline clearly has fewer overhead expenses than its for-profit “competitors” in the market, and can thus pass on the savings to its customers.

That’s good news for the customers and Helpline, but bad news for people doing nothing more than trying to earn an honest living by competing head to head with the food bank despite being forced to play by a different set of rules.

It bears noting that the Farmer’s Market hasn’t given Helpline an ultimatum. At this point, the group has simply requested that Helpline raise its prices to be more in line with what the for-profit vendors are obligated to charge.

In return for raising this point, the market’s manager says she has been flooded with complaints and threats — including death threats, which is despicable.

The hope here is that an amicable solution can be found that can allow both Helpline and the Farmer’s Market to continue providing their valuable services to the South Kitsap community.

In order for that to happen, however, it’s instructive to remember that neither party has a monopoly on virtue and that they can accomplish more by working together than either side could by going it alone.

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