Food stamps and WIC coupons going for double their face value are just some of the benefits the federal government is throwing at farmer’s markets.
No surprise then that the number of farmer’s markets is growing at a brisk clip. The promotion by the federal government has helped increase the numbers of farmer’s markets by 13 percent over last year to 5,274.
Popular with First Lady Michelle Obama, there is even a farmer’s market close enough to be named for the White House. Plus, the marketing gurus at the U.S. Department of Agriculture are all over the farmer’s market movement with the “Know your farmer, Know your food” campaign.
Now, however, state and local health departments are stepping forward to say all this farmer’s market growth has been too fast and too loose. And, one, the Dallas Health Department, is cracking down.
Health officials in the Texas city are making the rounds to make it clear they expected vendors to keep hot food hot, and cold food cold; and they want everybody washing their hands with hot water. Otherwise, they will close you down.
Already they shut down the popular Celebration Farmer’s Market that operated on Saturday mornings out of a restaurant parking lot on West Lovers Lane. It was selling raw, uncooked or processed food without a permit.
The White Rock Local Market is trying to stay open until December, although it does not have a permit. The city-owned Dallas Farmer’s Market has the facilities and permits to legally operate.
Still, the expanded offerings of many farmer’s markets are likely to bring more, not less regulation. When teenager Cory Young died July 28th of “morphine intoxication” after drinking poppy tea, it was reported that the poppy pods and seeds to make the tea were “easily found” at the Dallas Farmer’s Market.
Dallas, like other cities, this year saw weekend farmer’s markets pop up spontaneously on parking lots around the city. Celebration attracted hundreds and received extensive media attention before the health department showed up.
Some vendors say health department temporary permits do not work for their seasonal sales as they can only be used once per quarter. Others say they should be able to use temporary solutions, like dry ice in lieu of “mechanical refrigeration.”
Ed Lowe, who owns the Celebration restaurant and parking lot that hosted the market, says he wants to work with the city to “find a way to meet all safety requirements and allow it.”