Shots And Murmurs: Specialized Farmers Markets

Bolsa is hosting a market this weekend. So is Northaven Gardens. Lots of folks are casing in on the eat-local-and-kiss-a-famer movement. Makes me wonder why none of this energy is going towards the Dallas Farmers Market downtown. Is it better to spread the love to a neighborhood business near you or create a vibrant food, farmer, and producer friendly site downtown that would attract locals and visitors from other cities? Certainly, we can find someone to toss fish around? We’ve got plenty of characters in this city. Don’t we?

12 comments on “Shots And Murmurs: Specialized Farmers Markets

  1. That’s exactly the problem. DFM isn’t vibrant. It should be a celebration of local food. Instead, it feels like a dinosaur. Ancient. The city needs to get up off its butt and capitalize on the local food movement by making our farmers market a place people want to visit. SF’s Ferry Building Marketplace and Santa Fe’s FM are both great examples.

  2. The main goal for most of these mini-markets is to promote another business–Bolsa, Northaven Gardens, Mockingbird Station tenants, etc. If it increases traffic for the sponsoring tenants and if the sellers who participate get an adequate return, they will keep happening. I wouldn’t be surprised to see that most of them disappear after a few weeks or months.

    If some of them do survive, though, that’s a net positive for the Dallas Farmers Market. First, the convenience of mini-markets all over Dallas means more people are likely to be exposed to local produce and develop a taste for it, expanding the consumer base for the DFM as well.

    Second, some competitive pressure might lead the leadership of the DFM to pull their heads out of their a$$es and turn it into something other than a limited parking, outdoor Kroger next to a homeless shelter.

    Third, some small growers/producers may opt for a mini-market because they do not want the hassle/expense of going into the DFM. If they develop customers and see sales increase in a small market, they might see upside in establishing a presence at the DFM.

  3. Both excellent points and reality checks. I would really love to see the city of Dallas do something great in that space. Maybe take the hotel money and spend it there instead.

  4. Maybe I’m just a cynic, or maybe I need to visit San Francisco, but I’m not fond of the idea of one huge farmer’s market “celebration” that serves the entire metroplex. I think it overcomplicates things. Bands, classes, children’s stuff…do you really need all that? What about the people who just want to go buy some good food and not pay a ton extra for all the overhead?

    Do actual chefs shop at the DFM? Maybe their needs are different from mine. But all I want is a place that’s open Saturday (and Sunday would be nice too) that doesn’t run out of produce before 9AM and that is pretty consistent on at least who is there selling. Get some actual farmers other than Lemley (who is enough to get me down twice a summer) that have stuff I actually want to buy. In the meantime I’m content with McKinney which is far better in terms of convenience and product than the DFM.

  5. McKinney is better, even though it’s in an uncovered parking lot that’s half the size of the smallest shed at the Dallas Farmers Market.

  6. I guess that is fine if you live in McKinney. But a downtown Dallas FM could be a destination for tourists and farmers alike. Dallas chefs are using the DFM more than ever–the market opens on Thursday nights just for the chefs. I don’t care about band, but classes and kid’s educational stuff are an important aspect of educating people on food. I have worked for Days of Taste and other events at the FM and you would be amazed at the number of people who don’t know how to shop for food. Or even what some vegetables are.

  7. The McKinney Farmers Market is fine, if you live in McKinney. It’s also fine if you live in Allen, Plano, Frisco, Wylie, Richardson, or Garland, since it’s better and closer than the Dallas Farmers Market.

    The Dallas Farmers Market doesn’t appeal to the racial minorities that are the majority of the city’s residents. Call me a lazy stereotypist, but most of the whites in Dallas are restaurant-goers and convenience food buyers, not cooks.

    There’s one Sur la Table in Dallas. There are two in Plano.

    There are as many Williams-Sonoma stores in Plano and Frisco (combined) as there are in Dallas and the Park Cities (combined).

    Almost all of the Bed Bath & Beyond stores (where people buy stuff to cook with, rather than to display and have the servants polish) skew northward.

    Plano has one Central Market, just like Dallas does.

    For Whole Foods, Dallas edges out Plano and Richardson by one store.

    Richardson, Plano, and Frisco each have a Sprouts, while Dallas has none.

    Plano has one Newflower Farmers Market, just like Dallas does.

    Richardson has one Natural Grocer, while Dallas has none.

    There are more grocery stores of almost every type in the northern suburbs than there are in Dallas.

    All signs indicate that white cooking culture is stronger north of Dallas than it is within Dallas. If you dropped the Dallas Farmers Market in Plano, the farmers would do as well as or better than they do in Downtown Dallas.

  8. I will say that in defense of the DFM there was actually quite a bit of buzz down this past weekend. I went on Saturday about noone and it was more packed than I have seen it in a very long while. While most of the usuals were there.

    I managed to see a newcomer there this past weekend. David Kim and I believe his wife were a small operation and a very nice Korean farmer in his first weekend at the DFM. He was selling three products: creeping mint plants, seasame plants ($5) and freshly cut chives (3 bunches for $2). The chives he grows aren’t the typical chives you see in the herb packages at the store these were mild chives and the size of full grown Johnson Grass. The sesame plant was about 6 inches in height and Mr. Kim said he uses it to wrap his bulgogi with. I took a pinch off a leaf and it was a mild mint/anise like flavor no where near the flavor of Hoja Santa.

    These are the types of farmers I like to see at the DFM not the big guys. The Savoy Sorbet lady was also there as is most weekends. Her Triple Lemon is a favorite of mine. I do like the outer-lying farmers markets for the same reason…small entrepenuerial farmers.

    I am not going to limit myself to say one is better than the other. I have traveled to all the markets except for the Bolsa and NHG markets, which are new. I have no favorite b/c they all serve their purpose and some vendors aren’t at all the markets. For those of the DFW population who don’t like to drive and visit all of them, which is a majority of us, then the local markets are great. I personally like seeing what is down at the big market that I can’t see at the smaller ones.

    I like the idea of a destination market because there is always an interest from tourists to see what produce we have that makes us unique from elsewhere. Most tourists want to stay in one general location due to their lack of the geography.

    I will say that even in Slow Food Dallas there is a good number of people who don’t know what produce looks like growing in the field and what to look for in produce selection. So it is a sign of the number of years we have been without a produce market

  9. The “white cooking culture” based comment totally lost me. Are you saying that the problem with the DFM is that white people in Dallas don’t like to cook? Or that it doesn’t appeal to “racial minorities”? I’m not getting it. Do you think it should offer more ethnic food oriented products to broaden it’s appeal? Or do you just think it’s wasted on downtown and ought to be in Plano?

  10. Successful farmers markets in other cities don’t rely on face painting, kids classes, and brass bands to lure people in.

  11. Who isn’t weary of buying produce at a grocery store and having the clerk not know what a leek or a shallot is? It’s much better to get inspiration along with the purchase at the farmers market.

    I am happy to see the blog cover the DFM, although SideDish largely ignored Farmers Market Friends largest annual fundraiser – their silent auction at Taste of the World last Sunday at Union Station. Maybe next year?