A co-founder of the Eat Green DFW blog says it's too early to tell whether the recent cancellation of the weekly market at Mockingbird Station means there aren't enough local producers available to meet the growing demand for farmer-sold food.
"I think the jury's still out on that," Brian Cummings says. "Maybe we've overextended."
Cummings and his partner were asked earlier this year to help organize a Thursday evening market at Mockingbird, one of nearly a half-dozen new farmers' markets to emerge around Dallas this season. Cummings said the market had some successes, but he found few producers willing to commit one night a week to an event with an undeveloped customer base.
"They can be picky and choosy," Cummings says. "We had a woman coming up from Corsicana, she had some peaches and berries. She said the last thing she wanted to do on Thursday was drive into Dallas."
While developers at Mockingbird Station and West Village, which also inaugurated a market this year, no doubt assume a weekly market adds charm and character to their shopping plazas, farmers generally don't have time or money to waste on trendy events that attract more browsers than shoppers.
"We were just hoping we could gain enough traction to carry through the summer," Cummings says.
Cummings characterizes the problem, described in detail by Oregon State University researchers in their document "When Things Don't Work: Some Insights into Why Farmers' Markets Close", as "chicken and egg." According to Cummings, vendors won't come to a market if it isn't patronized by serious customers, and serious customers don't shop where there aren't many vendors.
The Oregon State University study found 25 percent of new farmers' markets in Oregon closed in their first year.
"Some farmers have told me it takes two years to get steady customers," Cummings said.
Yet Dallas locavores are pressing ahead with their market plans, creating a boom that Cummings suspects might not be sustainable. But he points to some local markets that seem designed to thrive.
"White Rock is doing it right," he says, praising organizers' decision to start with a once-a-month format. The market switched to a biweekly schedule this summer.
"The best markets will bubble up when everyone agrees to work together and get it going," he says.