Since the current owners of the Dallas Farmers Market took over for the city in 2013, it’s undergone a pretty radical makeover. “Shed One,” which once housed Pecan Lodge and other eateries, has been razed along with “Shed Three,” the warehouse where wholesale produce vendors set up shop to sell to the public. Now, there’s just “The Shed,” and this time of year, the offerings are pretty bleak.
This past weekend, The Shed was barely half-full with vendors, and many of them weren’t even selling produce. A woman selling homemade capes for kids (of the superhero variety) was positioned next to a vendor making pet pampering products and another selling healing essential oils. Another booth sold terrariums. These are all great and wonderful things, but they are not edible. Perhaps it’s too much to ask, but non-edible items should not constitute the majority of a farmers market’s offerings.
The produce that was on offer this week looked a little shabby. Bunches of limp, lifeless collards and kale were haphazardly piled under a table and sold for $1. If you grabbed one, you overpaid. There were some bright spots, like the organically grown beets, dandelion greens and habanero peppers, but they were grown in Austin. There were fewer than five actual produce dealers, one of which had driven all the way to Dallas from Austin.
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On Saturday, the Market advertised locally raised persimmons from BGoods, but those were nowhere to be found on Sunday morning. If you should show up on a weekday, good luck finding more than about one or two vendors. If it isn’t the weekend, the Dallas Farmers Market is a ghost town.
Perhaps the brightest spot of all was the presence of Eat the Yard, a veteran-run farm in Desoto. Farm workers were at the market on Sunday selling tiny little salad turnips with the greens attached, and several shoppers were carrying around a bag. This is the kind of produce that would pique a chef’s interest, but it was sadly the only particularly interesting veg available. Everything else — peppers, onions, beets, etc. — was the same old boring supermarket selection.
Even more mind-boggling, there’s an entire photo-op area dedicated to non-edible, decorative squashes. You can get a great photo of your kid in front of those gourds, but good luck finding a good kabocha or acorn squash for fall soupmaking. Sure, they’re pretty, but they belong out with the flowers and other decorative plants.
There are still plenty of good reasons to go to the Dallas Farmers Market. T-Rex Pickles are great, Chelle’s Macarons are fantastic, and there’s nothing better than chowing down on a cup of elote from the roasted corn cart while making your rounds. But it would still be really nice to be able to fill one’s basket with beautiful (read: not wilted or piled up on the floor) produce that has been grown within a hundred miles or so of downtown. Right now, that’s just not the case. We're hoping for much more bountiful times this spring, when more construction will have been completed.