City Invites Neighborhood Farmers Market Folks For Chat

Vendors and neighborhood farmers market organizers have been marshaling supporters for a couple of months now in preparation for a meeting with the city, initially scheduled for Feb. 11 but delayed until today because of Snowmaggedon. Jack Ireland, working to draft guidelines to present to the City Council’s Transportation & Environment Committee in early April, expected about 60, rather than the 20 who turned out, but he said it was a productive session.

A lot of the usual suspects were out — Ed Lowe from Celebration, Sarah Perry and Bruce Bagelman from White Rock Local Market, Susan and Brandon Pollard of the Texas Honeybee Guild, Clyde Greenhouse from the Kessler Cookie Company — and Ireland broke them into groups of market organizers, vendors, and neighbors, each of went into a corner of the conference room with a city employee  to discuss what eachwanted out of the neighborhood markets.

There was a lot of overlap. Everyone wanted local and everyone wanted fruits, vegetables, and baked goods. The “neighbors” group decided they wanted just produce and honey and nuts, plus baked goods if they come from a city-certified kitchen. Organizers wanted to include locally produced crafts and jewelrly. The vendors wanted all that plus soils, gardening supplies, even worms and worm casings.

Ireland said the city input he got today will be the primary factor in drafting guidelines for markets and the idea that this will be top-down and bureaucratic, isn’t true, although he didn’t go so far as city sustainability coordinator Kevin Lefebvre, who was leading the “neighbors group” (“We keep getting black eyes from the media … every time we try to do something good.”).  The city and farmers market folks need to find “a way around zoning” and establish some sort of special events permit that will supplant the current option–going through the arduous process of getting a special use permit from the Plan Commission.

Ireland hopes to get the yet-to-be-drafted regulations on the Council agenda by May for a vote.

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