FORT WORTH -- Coming soon to the Fort Worth farmers markets near you: frozen meats, cheeses, yard eggs and baked goods.
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 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, Scott Hanlan, an assistant code compliance director for the city, said.
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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.
Calling off elections
The Fort Worth City Council, as allowed by state law, cancelled the May elections for the unopposed Mayor Betsy Price and unopposed four council members Tuesday and declared them the winners of their offices. Along with Price, the council unanimously voted to declare Mayor Pro Tem W.B. "Zim" Zimmerman, District 6 Councilman Jungus Jordan; District 7 Councilman Dennis Shingleton, and District 9 Councilman Joel Burns the winners of their offices. Price said the move will save the city 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 memberships by using the promo word "earlybird." Visit fortworth.bcycle.com/home.aspx to sign up. A regularly-priced annual membership costs $80. The rate for students, seniors and military is $65. B-cycle, the leading bike-share system that Fort Worth's program is part of, also announced that annual members can use their B-cycle memberships in other B-cycle cities, starting Tuesday.
Scott Nishimura, (817) 390-7808