Texas markets

Dallas lifts ban on farmers’ markets in residential neighborhoods

This journal writes so often about the red tape at Dallas City Hall that we could publish an anthology every year. But today we offer words of praise.

We recently chronicled the struggles of the non-profit organization For Oak Cliff to get its farmers market off the ground. The problem was with permits. For Oak Cliff holds a monthly Farmer’s Market on its 10-acre campus, a former YMCA nestled in a residential neighborhood in South Oak Cliff. The problem is that the City of Dallas doesn’t allow farmers’ markets in areas classified as single-family neighborhoods.

The city told For Oak Cliff it could continue, but with a temporary event permit. This complicated the situation for food vendors, who would have to pay approximately $250 to the code compliance department each month to be able to sell temperature-controlled meals or snacks. On the other hand, fees for Farmer’s Market vendors are capped at $100 per year due to a state law.

We are pleased that the Office of Special Events has responded to this issue by proposing an amendment to the ban on Farmers’ Markets in single-family, duplex and townhouse neighborhoods. The new rule would create exceptions for places that have a valid certificate of occupancy for non-residential use. Special exceptions could also be made on a case-by-case basis.

The ordinance change appears on a draft agenda for Wednesday’s next city council meeting. We ask the council to approve it.

Too often, city officials postpone action on important issues, referring the issue to another task force or calling for another plan. Of course, there are issues that deserve further investigation, but it is also true that many of them are issues that affect people’s daily lives and that require an urgent response.

Many North Texas small business owners depend on their sales at farmers’ markets to put food on their own tables. Dallas’ ban on farmers’ markets in single-family neighborhoods hurt not only the fledgling For Oak Cliff Market, but also the nonprofit Good Local Markets, which has been operating since 2009.

The Good Local Markets group has locations in Lakewood and White Rock and can accommodate nearly 40 vendors. About 80% said in a survey that their only income came from selling in these marketplaces, said Casey Cutler, the nonprofit’s executive director.

This year, Good Local Markets had to move its White Rock location from one church parking lot to another due to construction. The group moved half a mile, but their new church home is in a single-family neighborhood. Cutler freaked out when she found out she couldn’t get a farmer’s market permit.

“It shocked me,” she said. “It took me forever to find a place that would house us.”

Cutler told us she is grateful that city staff have worked to find a permanent solution that will not only help Good Local Markets and For Oak Cliff, but also other groups who want to start their own markets, especially in South Dallas communities that are food deserts.

Dallas can’t continue to lament the lack of grocery chains, but hunt farmers and food vendors who offer fresh alternatives.

“It shouldn’t be that hard to have a farmers market,” Cutler said.

True, indeed.