Tuesday, March 15, 2011

The City of Dallas' attempt at progress

In 2010, the City of Dallas had enacted a moratorium on public markets.  They had suspended the licensing of markets in general to figure how they wanted to legislate their implementation.  Given the increased interest in community gardens, the City wanted to make sure that the permitting of neighborhood markets was done responsibly and that the new markets did not interfere with the already established Dallas Farmers Market.

Recently in 2011, the City of Dallas has allowed a new permit for "Neighborhood Farmers Markets" (Chapter 29A, Code Compliance), which is undoubtedly a step in the right direction for the promotion of local economy, sustainable living, and a positive image for the City.  Knowing that Dallas was working towards this end, we were excited by the prospect of progressive legislation that would accommodate the growing interest in public markets within DFW.  Unfortunately, we were disappointed when the provisions of the licensing were published.  The Deep Ellum Outdoor Market apparently does not fit the City's definition of a "Neighborhood Farmers Market."

First and foremost, an NFM must be outside the Central Business District and, therefore, does not pose a threat to the Dallas Farmers Market.  An NFM does not exceed 50 vendors, and a vendor does not use a space more that 10ft x 10ft.  An NFM does not take up more than 25% of the entire area of a parking lot.  An NFM is not a flea market, and therefore no more than 50% of the vendors may sell non-food items, additionally no products may be offered for resale.  An NFM does not project to attract more than 1000 people including vendors and market staff in a given day. Finally, a market coordinator may not file for a Neighborhood Farmers Market Permit at a separate location.

The Deep Ellum Outdoor Market fails to meet these provisions.  The White Rock Local Market, a fine example of a public market, had to turn regular vendors away last weekend because of the stipulations of the City.  If the number of vendors you are allowed to have is capped by the product they sell, what happens in extreme weather when produce is scarce?  What if the neighborhood where your market is located is a dense one of more than 1000 residents within a square mile?

The way I see it, if you keep telling people what they cannot do, it will make them give up attempting what they want to do.  The right thing for a city is to implement a regulatory approach that eschews policing people in favor of establishing rules that follow priorities.  Let public intentions and creativity define policy because these specific restrictions hinder growth.  This form of legislation is akin to locking the door to paths of progress.  In other words, get your greasy fingers out of my business and let me put on a market.


  1. Chicago has DOZENS of flourishing neighborhood markers of crafts and exceptional produce. What Chicago understands is that Quality-of-Life is one key to growth and prosperity.
    Dallas on the other hand, builds hotels with city money in a deficit economy, damages its own schools, subsidizes private development and protects a failure of a "Farmer's Market" that no one goes to because it is so awful.

  2. Very sad. How will this effect this weekends market?

  3. The Deep Ellum Outdoor Market is not affected by this whatsoever. We are licensed by the Office of Special Events, not the Dallas Farmers Market. The difference is in the extra requirements of a special event, like renting police and applying every month, among others.

  4. Glad to hear it wont affect DEOM. It's upsetting about the White Rock Local Market though. I have been a vendor there and it is an excellent market. It's a shame that the city is interfering with a good thing.

  5. Well, we're lucky that I'm very stubborn and also that I was raised under the philosophy that it's better to say sorry than to say please.

  6. How can we help steer away from this destructive legislation? Is it being discussed in city council meetings or some other venue?

  7. Between you and me, whoever is so intent on protecting the Dallas Farmers Market is at the bottom of this irrational legislation.

    But luckily, there are advantages to living in a fractured and disconnected city. When one hand doesn't know what the other is doing, it's easy to slip through the cracks...