The City Council on Tuesday voted unanimously to broaden the list of items that can be sold at farmers markets to include those items, most notably frozen meats, long demanded by consumers.
The old ordinance allowed only whole fruits and produce. The city has previously permitted certain foods considered less potentially hazardous - eggs, breads, and hard cheeses - by exception. The new ordinance allows those foods, including all cheeses, in. And it slashes fees.
The city wanted to accede to consumer desires, acknowledge the growing popularity of urban markets, and help pass along the benefits of direct-from-farm foods, while maintaining health protections, Scott Hanlan, an assistant code compliance director for the city, said.
Besides being frozen, for example, meat products must “come from an approved source,” Hanlan said. “We will have to see that the state or USDA approved those products and has that stamp on it before it can be sold here.”
Instead of $175 for a six-month temporary permit, the new ordinance includes a $175 annual permit for farmers market vendors.
The city will conduct periodic inspections of the permitted vendors to ensure they’re maintaining property temperatures and foods have the appropriate packaging, Hanlan said.
“We really think it’s going to be a wash,” Hanlan said of the costs of conducting the inspections compared to the fee revenue.
The new ordinance will likely take effect in the next few weeks, ahead of the Spring season for the markets, Hanlan said.
Gwin Grimes, president of the group that runs the Cowtown Farmers Market at the Benbrook Traffic Circle and outside the Federal Building downtown, said the ordinance changes should increase sellers and customer traffic and help spawn new businesses.
“Farmers markets forever have been an incubator for food-based businesses,” said Grimes, owner of the Artisan Baking Co. in Fort Worth.
Allowing frozen meat addresses the biggest demand of consumers, particularly given that other cities around Fort Worth allow frozen meats to be sold at their markets, Grimes said.
“That is the one question we get every week: Why don’t you have any meat vendors?” she said.
The ordinance bars the resale of foods from retailers and wholesalers. That means frozen meats would be coming from the rancher, Grimes said.
The ordinance still bars farmers market vendors from selling foods considered of high risk, including raw milk, raw fish, and other seafood.
Besides the Cowtown Farmers Market, Fort Worth has two other farmers markets: the Tarrant County Public Health Farmers Market at 1101 S. Main St., and the Southside Urban Farmers Market at 106 E. Daggett Ave.
- Scott Nishimura, Star-Telegram Fort Worth City Hall reporter