Ohio woman sues farmers' market for pinhooking accusations

HUNTINGTON -- A Scottstown, Ohio, woman is suing Cabell County Tailgate Farmers' Market for accusing her of pinhooking her produce.

Debbie Shoemaker applied to and was granted membership by the board of directors and has since paid her annual dues, according to a complaint filed Jan. 3 in Cabell Circuit Court.

Shoemaker claims during the 2011 season she was growing watermelons and cantaloupe, among other produce, and on July 31, 2011, a board member did a random inspection at her farm.

On Aug. 14, 2011, the defendant advised by letter that Shoemaker was suspended from selling at the market for the rest of the 2011 season, according to the suit.

Shoemaker claims the defendant said she was pinhooking her produce, which she says she was not doing.

Pinhooking is a term used to describe someone who buys produce or tobacco directly from farmers, weeds out inferior products and then turns around and sells the higher quality product as their own. The term also can be used for someone who buys a horse at an auction with plans to turn around and sell it for a higher price.

On Sept. 19, 2011, Shoemaker requested a re-inspection of the farm, through her counsel, according to the suit.

Shoemaker claims the defendant agreed to a re-inspection, which it did on Sept. 26, 2011.

By letter, dated on Oct. 30, 2011, the board of director's secretary-treasurer Kim Jackson advised that the suspension was to stand for the 2011 season because too much time had elapsed between the inspection and the re-inspection, according to the suit.

Shoemaker claims the defendant violated West Virginia Code by failing to allow her the opportunity to respond to the allegations for which she was suspended.

The defendant's constitution and by-laws do not include a provision for independent investigative body or committee to protect its members from the board of director's possible bias, according to the suit.

Shoemaker is seeking for the court to enter an order that the defendant's constitution and by-laws fail to provide for any membership protections if an allegations of pin-hooking has been made and that the suspension was not reasonable. She is being represented by Neil R. Bouchillon.

The case has been assigned to Circuit Judge F. Jane Hustead.

Cabell Circuit Court case number: 12-C-6

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