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They Want Us to Save the Dallas Farmers Market. But What If, Instead, We Didn't?

Farmers markets can (and should) pop up anywhere. And they don't have to cost hundreds of thousands of dollars.
Farmers markets can (and should) pop up anywhere. And they don't have to cost hundreds of thousands of dollars.

When Jim Schutze wrote a story calling for the demise of a farmers market, I was pissed. What kind of out-of-touch a-hole doesn't like farmers markets? Who doesn't love spending $28 on a local pumpkin for their autumn pie? Who doesn't like driving though downtown to shop in a building that's a total eyesore?

I was planning a massive Schutze take-down on City of Ate. I was even going to throw fresh, local, farm-grown (where else would they grow) tomatoes at the guy's pickup truck. And then I read his article.

Schutze basically argues, and pretty compellingly, that the whole thing is a failure and always will be. He talks about hundreds of thousands of dollars squandered a year and the incessant harassment of homeless people. He talks about the misuse of prime real estate and racial tensions in Dallas. He even talks to Tom "Spiceman" Spicer, the one guy who should really stand up for the Dallas Farmers Market, right?

Nope. He says kill it, too. That the downtown market offered too little, too late. "We missed the boat."

Huh.

Maybe the Dallas Farmers Market is a waste. I've visited it a handful of times, and while I've eaten a ton of brisket, I've never bought a vegetable or fruit there. I think it was the scale that threw me off. So many big vendors selling so much stuff that looked like grocery store produce more than it looked like farmers-market produce. Sure, there were some stands with the real-deal local stuff, but mostly the whole thing felt like a failure.

Now City Hall wants to wash its hands clean of the mess. Maybe they read Schutze's article, or maybe they needed to free up a few hundred grand to hire some more restaurant inspectors, but they're looking for a private entity to take the whole thing over, and hopefully fix it.

An organization called Dallas Farmers Market Friends is predictably upset. They posted a petition online and gathered a list of articles they say tells both sides of the story. (Schutze's copy didn't make the cut.) They're also encouraging people who care about the market to attend a public meeting this Thursday at 6 p.m. at the J. Erik Jonsson Central Library. The Dallas Farmers Market is a prominent and special part of Dallas' history, according to their website.

But what if became history?

Those farmers wouldn't lay down their spades and quit farming. They'd go somewhere else. The shoppers would go somewhere else, too. Imagine if all those Uptowners could actually WALK to purchase their overpriced tomatoes. They're only going to do it if the market is a vibrant, strong and fun place to be. Maybe a new market would spring up in Oak Lawn. The White Rock Local Market held every other month might start convening every weekend, and Urban Acres might not have to close a few days a week.

These smaller markets should be thriving and injecting local food products directly into neighborhoods. That's the whole point. There's something about gassing up the Civic to take the kids downtown to the Farmers Market that just doesn't sound right.

Don't get me wrong. I love great ingredients, and I love farmers, too. But while I understand the attachment to the Dallas Farmers Market, I can't help but to wonder how its closure might actually improve all these smaller, better located markets, and whether we all might be better off in the end

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