By Clark Mason – The Press Democrat, 9 September 2016


Photo: John Burgess/The Press Democrat


Vendors and exhibitors at a popular natural foods event contend they were harassed and unfairly targeted by Sonoma County health inspectors who cracked down this week with fees and fines, as well as permit requirements.

Organizers of the National Heirloom Exposition at the Sonoma County Fairgrounds said previous health inspectors were positive and supportive of the three-day event, which ended Thursday. But this year was different.

Organic apples donated to expo attendees required a tasting permit to be given away along with other produce, according to organizers, who said approximately two dozen vendors were hit with fees and fines totaling hundreds of dollars, and as much as $750.

Organizers said the treatment by health inspectors threatens the future of the Heirloom Exposition, which draws more than 15,000 people. They said it makes it challenging for the participation of backyard farmers and hobbyists who can’t give away an apple or tomato without a permit.

“We feel we’re not really wanted,” said farming entrepreneur Jere Gettle, who co-founded the Heirloom Festival and the Petaluma Seed Bank. “It’s taken the heart out of the event.”



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