The Dallas Farmers Market's Extreme Makeover Is Almost Complete

Categories: Food News

DallasFarmer1_opt.jpg
via Dallas Farmers Market
Local produce for days.

Foodies in Dallas have long lamented the problems of the Dallas Farmers Market. A lack of consistent local vendors and general disinterest from the city of Dallas resulted in a lackluster farmer's market that did not accurately represent the bounty produced by local farmers. In many cases, it just wasn't profitable for farmers to make the trip to Downtown.


But last year, DF Market Holdings, LLC bought the Dallas Farmers Market from the city and promised big changes. Unfortunately, some of those changes meant losing famous farmers market mainstays like Pecan Lodge. After close to a year of construction and new development, though, the Dallas Farmers Market is planning to reopen at the end of the summer with a brand new look and a renewed focus on local farmers.

Even though the Market has been under construction, director of operations Travis Morgan says that business is booming. "I have a couple of employees that were here before the change in ownership, and they're saying that they've never seen it busier." Of course, weekends are the Market's most profitable days, but weekday traffic is steadily increasing despite the changes.

DallasFarmer2_opt.jpg
via Dallas Farmers Market
They have a cool tractor, so you know it's real.

There was, of course, some pushback from loyal market goers when DF Market Holdings announced that they would be removing all parking spaces that were housed underneath Shed 1, where local farmers are housed. According to Morgan, the presence of these parking spaces may have actually been detrimental to the businesses of some farmers. "Customers liked the idea that they could drive straight to their favorite vendor, and I understand that. But when we took that away, all of our customers had to walk by other vendors that they'd never met before," he explained. "Some people have driven there for years and never looked left or right."

When the Dallas Farmers Market reopens on August 29, the space will be much more friendly to both farmers and patrons. Removing the parking also means that farmers won't have to worry about their wares being covered in car exhaust, and that parents can bring their kids without having to worry about them being plowed over by inattentive drivers on a busy day. It also means that there will hopefully be a wider variety of offerings, thanks to added space for new vendors.

DallasFarmer3_opt.jpg
via Dallas Farmers Market
Peaches are especially great right now.

"Patrons should see twice as many vendors/farmers than they've seen in any of the other sheds," Morgan said. With this much more space, the Market hopes to add items that have never been available for sale. "We're finally going to have a bread vendor, artisan-made foods, and access to lots of different kinds of meats, including fish." Previously, DF Market Holdings had hinted at additional retail and restaurant offerings, but Morgan was tight-lipped about what's to come in those spaces.

There's also the issue of attracting farmers to regularly bring their wares to the Dallas Farmers Market. Changes to the back-end layout, including removing space for farmers to back into their stalls, had some people initially concerned about the Market's ability to keep a regular roster of farmers. To combat that, the Market is working with GROW North Texas, a nonprofit organization that connects communities with local farmers.

In working with GROW, Morgan hopes to demonstrate to farmers that coming to the Dallas Farmers Market is good for business. "The issue is that a successful business model for most farmers means that they're always busy farming," he explains. "They can't man a booth. With the new shed and some of the quality controls we've put in place, a lot of them are looking at starting to look at how they can adapt to a retail model."

In the meantime, the Market is rapidly preparing for their grand opening on August 29 while continuing to serve crowds that have taken advantage of the cool summer weather. Once the market has been "reopened," more improvements will still be underway, like the building of a much-needed parking garage, and over 5,000 square feet of retail and restaurant space in the newly-revamped Shed 2, the former home of Pecan Lodge.


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12 comments
frankmorganfarmer
frankmorganfarmer

I’ll weigh in here as a grower who currently sells at another market.In the last few months the new management at the downtown market has contacted me on a couple of different issues and I will say that I have been very impressed compared to the old management.I struggle to have enough product to supply the markets I am serving so don’t have plans yet to attend the Dallas Farmers market but I can say for sure that I would NOT have done so under the old management.My communication with them when I first started out was very difficult and it was like they didn’t want me at all.The new management seems to be very open and welcomes local farmers and wants us to be part of the market. So as my business grows I will definitely consider them as part of my expansion.

primi_timpano
primi_timpano topcommenter

Was there last week and it was a mess. The commercial stuff (avocados, celery, etc.) sat next to obvious family operations. Parking was a problem. Found some good okra and serranos. No heirloom anythings. All the farmers I buy from elsewhere tell me they have no interest in it.

NakedTuna
NakedTuna

So does this mean actual farmers, like we see at ALL the other markets around town, will soon be vendors? Or just more semi trailers and box trucks with produce in plastic cartons and cardboard boxes, the same which I'd find at Kroger?

jkgreensdfw
jkgreensdfw

Always love the market.  We went last weekend and for the most part it was a lot like it has been.  Less food and booths inside.  Only one barn in use and crammed full.  They took out that cool old food place that sat next to the main building.  it is now dirt.  but other than that..... 

CitizenKane
CitizenKane

So, does the new ownership have a program in place that identifies locally grown produce?


Produce grown by family farms?


Produce that is field fresh (picked within 24 hours)?


Produce that is organically grown?


In other words, are the changes significant, or are they just lipstick on the same old pig?





Susie_M
Susie_M

@CitizenKane

Hi, Susie Marshall here from GROW North Texas, working with the Dallas Farmers Market to address some of your questions. The best way to find out when something was picked and where, is to ask the grower. There is nothing that can replace the relationship with your farmer. There is no better way to find out about a grower's production methods than to ask them, learn the farm story, and even schedule a visit to the farm if the grower is amenable. 

We are implementing mandatory vendor signage which clearly indicates where produce is grown, pricing and whether the produce is organic, chemical free or conventional. “Organic” marked produce must be USDA certified organic, “Chemical free” marked produce is chemical free and could be organic but not certified or may be Certified Naturally Grown (as confirmed by our Farm Coordinator) and last “Conventional” marked produce could have pesticides, herbicides and fertilizers. Hope this helps!

Metroplexual
Metroplexual

@CitizenKane  and Chattering_Monkey


https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=WAlWrT5P2VI


I think it would be great if local farmers participate but costs need to be competitive with other markets and stores.  I fear catering to hipsters and

yuppies exclusively will be detrimental to the overall farmers market experience.  

Where will customers park?  I loved the convenience of parking by Lumley and Bettye.  I doubt that I'm the only one who parked inside and walked the whole market including indoor shed.





Chattering_Monkey
Chattering_Monkey

@Metroplexual @CitizenKane Whats wrong with parking around the corner or down the street and walking?  I always found it odd that you could park INSIDE the Market.  I mean, do they let you park your F350 in the produce section of Tom Thumb?

smiling1809
smiling1809

@Chattering_Monkey @CitizenKane They identify themselves and have for years. The signs are small, but they are there. Lemley's and Bettye's come to mind as local growers. There is a meat and egg guy too. There are more than that. Those are just a few I frequent.

primi_timpano
primi_timpano topcommenter

Gave up on those two about 3 years ago. IMHO they are indistinguishable from Central Market Texas tomatoes. If you are into some massive sauce cooking, then their seconds (boxes under the counter) are a good deal. Be prepared for some mushy/rotten ones.

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