City Hall

Neighbood Farmers Markets Still Unhappy With One Key Aspect of City's Latest Proposal

The city has spent the better part of six months trying to come up with a proposal that'll allow neighborhood farmers markets to keep operating without cutting into the city-owned downtown market's business. The latest proposition goes in front of the city council's Transportation and Environment Committee this afternoon -- and, truth be told, it doesn't look a whole lot different from the April proposal that didn't make it out of committee.

There are a few slight alterations in the markets' favor: The city's willing to allow them to operate "28 non-consecutive market days per year," as opposed to the original 24. And the three-mile limit separating markets from the downtown sheds has been closed to one mile. The city has also come up with a price point for annual market permits: Organizers with 25 or fewer vendors will have to pay $200 for their application; those with 26 to 50 vendors will have to pony up $300.

But aside from Jim's larger point back in December, there remains one significant point of contention dividing city officials and market operators: Vendors selling meat, cheese or cut produce will still have to go to City Hall and pay for a "temporary food handling permit," which market organizers think is ridiculous -- because, for starters, the downtown Dallas Farmers Market requires no such thing. And someone like Paula Lambert, owner of Mozzarella Company in Deep Ellum, is already licensed, inspected, permitted and taxed. And no way she's going to pay an extra fee -- right now, the proposal, sources say, puts the new permit at $250 -- to sell at Celebration's Farmer's Market, where, for a long while, she's been setting up shop on Saturdays.

"That's the sticking point," says Leah Ferraro, who runs the Celebration market and who's been among those meeting with assistant city manager Jack Ireland to hash out this deal. "It's going to be a problem for sure." Why, exactly?

"Most of the people producing eggs, cheese, meat -- they've got permits," Ferraro tells Unfair Park. "They have to be inspected. Tha have to be licensed and permitted, and this is just another permit for them to get. And why? If they're already inspected, why do they need another permit to sell? And what they're talking about charging for the permits if prohibitive. They were talking about $250 a year, and if that's just another fee on top of what they're already paying, I've already had vendors tell me they won't do it. It could take some vendors a month to make that up. The city's looking at it as, well, it's fair -- they're already making money. But they're also paying people to be to there -- most of these vendors aren't at one market, after all."

Lambert's out of town, but Ferraro says the cheese-maker has already said if the city passes the permit requirement, forget it -- she's outta there. So too other vendors who'll take their goods to myriad markets outside the city limits that don't demand they pay an extra fee."

"The city is trying to work with us, and they think because they are, we need to accept things that aren't acceptable," Ferraro says. "Paula, for instance, she's in an inspected facility. She's a very successful business woman, and why make her pay another fee to go out and sell her product? It doesn't make sense."

Nevertheless, says Ferraro, she's resigned to the inevitable: "I have a feeling this one will pass."