Farmers Markets: Class Divisions
Among the Heirloom Tomatoes

Dropped by the Green Spot neighborhood farmers market Saturday morning on the parking lot at the Green Spot gas station and store on North Buckner Boulevard at Northcliff Drive on the east side of White Rock Lake. It was sort of Bedouin -- a gathering of tents, stalls and tables all around the gas pumps and across the entire front of the lot, a horde of people milling between, everything in an energetic disorder and everywhere mothers with hydration backpacks braying for their children like cranky camels.

It takes two seconds at one of these North Dallas/East Dallas farmers markets to see what the issue is and why the city-owned downtown farmers market doesn't get it. It's food. It's class.

I love the downtown market, but I love it because it's grungy. They sell onions in wrinkly brown grocery sacks, and they have winos sleeping under truck wheels. The Green Spot is sooo beyond all that. It's artisanal. Gleaming pyramids of handmade jam in bottles; trays full of irresistible cinnamon buns in capes of white icing; spices in open boxes sending up a musical scent. It's...you know what it is? It's French. There. I said it. French. The neighborhood farmers markets are French.

You have Bruce McCarver standing over his organic produce like a jeweler with a glass box full of diamond rings, ready to tell you the family history of every beet and tomato on the table. This is all about food, foodies, food-land. It's about the whole movement and idea of food off the grid.

McCarver told me he doesn't go the city's farmers market because it's too much hassle. "This is just easier. Less hassle. I sell out here. I don't want to go down there and deal with all that." Several produce dealers told me the same thing. But it turns out there's another factor at work here: They have to pay $80 a day to reserve a spot at the city market. The proprietors of the Green Spot don't charge them a nickel.

And why would they? The farmers are the show. At this zoo, they're the giraffes and the lions. The Green Spot should pay them.

The issue is food. Which is class. In all of those jogging baby-strollers in that crowd, I can guarantee you there wasn't a kid over 2 months who hasn't already been tested for gifted. And if the kid didn't pass, they're gonna force-feed him Farmer McCarver's heirloom tomatoes like a French goose for six months, play Bach at him at high decibels and then take him back for a retest.

It's what this whole brouhaha over farmers markets is all about.

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