DALLAS (CBSDFW.COM) – The Memorial Day holiday not only signals the unofficial beginning of summer, it means an uptick in traffic at the Dallas Farmers Market.
“It’s fresh food, it’s fresh vegetables and fruits and it’s a lot cheaper and you save money and, I mean, everyone is polite,” says shopper Ryan Scott.
The market, though, is at a crossroads as the city of Dallas weighs whether to privatize it. While shoppers are enthusiastic, day-to-day there are not nearly enough of them. Vendors and small businesses say the city-owned market is too short on commitment and too long on cumbersome rules.
“I have to have a “plan B” because I’m not sure of anything,” says Paul Gray of Paul’s Fresh Produce. “One day it’s this, one day it’s that. I mean, it’s just a nightmare here.” Jim Ingenfor agrees. “The city can’t be spontaneous,” he says. “What takes the city six months to a year to accomplish, private business can do overnight.”
Which is why the city is considering privatizing the market, much as it has successfully done with the Dallas Zoo. Right now two bidders have submitted formal proposals on how they’d run the market. It’s a secret process so the city can get the best deal.
“We want someone to come in that is able to make decisions,” says Tanya Ragan of the Dallas Farmers Market Stakeholders Association, “to come in and in 60-90 days says, ‘We’re going to paint this, we’re going to clean this.'”
But stakeholders also say solutions must embrace more than just produce vending.
There are neighbors to deal with: new residential housing is springing up, and dealing with the overflow from The Bridge and other agencies for the homeless is a challenge. “We still have issues with homeless going into the market area, panhandling people, harrassing people,” claims Ingendorf.
But folks at the market are hopeful the challenges can be met with profesional leadership. Paul Gray says, “The market is just a great asset to Dallas — if we just get the right people to run it and make it a go-to place for families.”
It’s hoped the winning bid will be revealed by August and perhaps have new management in place by the first of next year.