Wednesday, March 27, 2013

Bring the Farmers Market to the People

Don't expect the people to all go to the Farmer's Market.

With news that the city has officially privatized and downsized the Downtown Dallas Farmers' Market, I have another proposal.  Diversify locations.  Pick 7 locations and have each dedicated for one day, scattered throughout the city.

Off the top of my head you could have one downtown/Deep Ellum as it currently is, Bishop Arts/Jefferson Area, Knox/Oak Lawn/Wycliff area, Leadbetter, Lakewood, Five Points, and Buckner.  Those are just the first 7.  Don't get too caught up in the specifics.

More importantly, it's retail following rooftops.  It's not expecting the Farmers' Market to act as a regional destination like a shopping mall (and we've seen how most of those turn out).  They invariably underperform and are hyper-sensitive to cannibalization.

It's too difficult to draw from the entire city or region.  That's why regional destinations tend to have only one or two of a given use per million people (dependent upon the specific use).  For Farmers Markets and groceries, people often go once a week at most.  I imagine most Farmers Market shoppers are repeat ones as well.

Instead, the Farmers Market should increase its exposure, accessibility, and market share by setting up 7 locations, 1 per day so that the surrounding neighborhoods have locational and chronological predictability.  "Oh, it's Tuesday.  That's the day I have scheduled in my outlook calendar that I pick up veggies at the Farmer's Market in Lakewood just a short 1/2-mile bike ride from my house."

By being one-a-day it allows the facilities to also be multi-purpose and flexible in programming and use.  In Europe this happens all the time on streets and plazas that transform one or two days a week, like the Porta Portese Market in Rome:

File:Rome porta portese july 2006.jpg

The Farmers Market needed to downsize and privatize.  Now it needs to relocalize.  It was too big, too single purpose, and needed to offload some land to leverage in-higher-demand uses such as residential.  But ultimately, we need to be thinking about how we can bring healthier food to underserved parts of the city while improving the vendors ability to reach consumers rather than expecting them to labor under less than ideal circumstances and surroundings.

How 'bout them apples?