Frozen meats coming to Fort Worth farmers markets

Posted Tuesday, Mar. 19, 2013  comments  Print Reprints
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FORT WORTH -- Coming soon to the Fort Worth farmers markets near you: frozen meats, cheeses, yard eggs and baked goods.

The City Council voted unanimously Tuesday to broaden the list of items that can be sold at farmers markets. The most notable addition is frozen meats, long demanded by consumers.

The old ordinance allowed only whole fruits and produce. The city previously permitted certain foods considered less hazardous -- eggs, bread and hard cheeses -- by exception.

The new ordinance allows those foods, including all cheeses. And it cuts 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, said Scott Hanlan, an assistant code compliance director for the city.

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 vendors.

The city will inspect permitted vendors periodically to ensure that they're maintaining proper temperatures and that foods have the appropriate packaging, Hanlan said.

Hanlan said the city expects the cost of conducting the inspections compared with fee revenue to be "a wash."

The ordinance will likely take effect within 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 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 area cities 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 come from ranchers, Grimes said.

The ordinance still bars vendors from selling foods considered of high risk, including raw milk, raw fish and other seafood.

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.

Calling off elections

The City Council, as allowed by state law, canceled the May elections for unopposed Mayor Betsy Price and for four unopposed council members Tuesday and declared them the winners of their offices.

Along with Price, they are Mayor Pro Tem W.B. "Zim" Zimmerman; District 6 Councilman Jungus Jordan; District 7 Councilman Dennis Shingleton; and District 9 Councilman Joel Burns.

Price said the move will save money.

Bike share program

Memberships in Fort Worth's new bike share program, set to launch April 22, are now for sale. Anyone who signs up before April 22 receives a $10 discount on an annual membership by using the promo word "earlybird."

Visit fortworth.bcycle.com/home.aspx to sign up.

A regularly priced annual membership costs $80.

Scott Nishimura, 817-390-7808

Twitter: @JScottNishimura

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