In Praise of Our Founding Farmers Markets and Budding Urban Agriculture

At BFOC, we like nothing more than to ride our bicycles to a local neighborhood or farmers market and buy local.  So, we have been following the discussions of the Transportation and Environment Committee, which is considering new City-wide policies for regulating both community gardens and neighborhood farmers markets.

One anti-farmers market talking point is summarized in the phrase “The Farmers Market.”  On Monday, April 12, we heard this talking point in several different refrains: “We need to protect our investment at The Farmers Market” or “I won’t support anything that will harm The Farmers Market.”  Underneath all of the blatant protectionism and favoritism, rests an important assumption that should be challenged.

Is it normal or even healthy to have a single farmers market in a large city?  What does the farmers market side of a healthy urban agricultural environment look like anyway?  Let’s take a look:

Location

Number of

Farmers Markets

Manhattan

39

King County (Including Seattle)

39

Brooklyn

29

Philadelphia Area 22

Los Angles

19

Suburbs of Portland (Excluding Portland) 19
Atlanta Area 17
Albany County 17
Portland 12
Cleveland 12
San Francisco 11 (with 100+ in Bay Area)
Tulsa Area 11
Austin 10
Dallas 7

Admittedly, this is only observation and certainly not scientific as the reporting sources consulted vary on the definition of a farmers market.  The numbers do provide a certain clarity and direction, however.  Cities of any size and worth have many farmers markets and a city the size of Dallas should certainly have more than seven:  Central Business District (The Farmers Market), Bolsa, Celebration Market, Milestone, Mockingbird Station, North Haven Gardens, and White Rock Lake.

First, we should all praise this small founding population of urban farmers markets.  Urban agriculture is more than a single, centralized farmers market.  It is the integration of sustainable food production and distribution throughout our built environment.  We must understand, whether we are discussing community gardens or farmers markets, that urban agriculture in Dallas is just taking hold and we should be grateful for the opportunities presented.

Second, we should be encouraging our farmers markets to thrive.  In fact, instead of spending countless hours studying how to regulate the existing farmers markets, our time would be better spent understanding what will make this small founding population survive and multiply.

Our goals must be loftier than passing new regulations and generating $16,500+ in permit fees per year.  Lest we forget a fundamental lesson of nature:  small populations are subject to a higher chance of extinction because they are more vulnerable to fate in each of its cruel forms: disease, drought, plague, misguided city regulation, etc.

One comment

  1. Since 2009, Yonnette Fleming has been cooking up something good for the community at the Hattie Carthan Community Market every Saturday. Using homegrown herbs and vegetables from the garden, the recipes are a hundred percent authentic and inspiring. Yet, something even more special is brewing- a feast to those who nurture nature. Ms. Fleming is hosting a celebration for the farmy folks in all of us, their first annual Farmy Folks Soiree. This family function is on Saturday November 13th, from 6pm to 10pm, right around the corner from the garden on Clifton Place and Marcy Avenue. Farmy films and folk music will be the pulse of the event, guiding us right to the 2010 harvest review of the Hattie Carthan Market. A formal tribute to those who have helped out at the garden with their hard work and time toward building something positive for the community.

    Tickets are $25 and can be bought at the market or on http://www.wix.com/frankness/forthefarmyfolks

    But you don’t have to wait until then to enjoy autumn in the garden. Their Pumpkin Fest is this Saturday and they have plenty of treasures to hunt and pumpkins to carve if you’re up for it! In commemoration of Halloween, the day of the dead, there will be an art exhibit honoring food as essential for remembering the dead. Festivities go from 9am until 4pm. Expect fresh seasonal treats like mulled cider and pumpkin bread. Costumes are welcome!

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