Some long-awaited changes will soon be arriving at Fort Worth farmers markets.
The City Council on Tuesday approved two ordinance changes that will lessen restrictions on the markets and allow them to open in new areas.
Instead of paying a fee for every appearance at a market, some vendors instead will pay a simple annual fee of $175. Market organizers hope the change will bring in more small businesses to sell goods and foods.
The kinds of foods are also expanding. Eggs, meats and dairy products can now be sold as long as they follow appropriate health code rules.
Gwin Grimes, North Central Texas Farmers Market Corp. president, said customers had asked her and others about the lack of meat products sold at Fort Worth markets. Under the old rules, products such as eggs, meats and dairy products could not be sold unless the city gave prior approval.
"Anything beyond uncut fresh fruits and vegetables had to be OK'd by the city on an individual basis," Grimes said. "Now we have a blanket policy in place that's very clear and easy to understand."
Grimes said the strict rules on what could be sold, as well as the fees, were limiting at times. She said she hopes the changes will lead more farmers and small businesses at the various markets held downtown and at the Benbrook Traffic Circle.
"We want to increase the access to locally grown, healthy foods to make them more available to residents of Fort Worth," she said.
The council also voted to amend the zoning ordinance that determines where farmers markets can be located. Under the previous ordinance, they could only be in industrial-zoned locations.
The Cowtown Farmers Market got special approval for its downtown location last year after Grimes worked with several city departments.
The new zoning rules allow for the markets everywhere from neighborhoods to central business district zoning.
The changes were greeted with high-fives and smiles at the first Cowtown Farmers Market of the year.
"It'll be a huge savings for us," said Mary Samudio, owner of Hot Tamalez. "I'm excited."
Samudio, who has been coming to farmers markets for years to sell tamales, said the weekly cost of $100 in fees has been adding up has meant that she needs to sell even more every week.
But the changes will have a significant financial benefit to her small business, she said.
"It's going to be great for us," Samudio said. "Instead of $50 every single time we did a market, we're down to one small price."
The annual permit for vendors could drop, Grimes said. The state Legislature is looking at capping that fee at $50, she said.
Elmer DePaula, consumer health manager for the city's code compliance department, said city staff worked with the markets for two to three years to help develop an ordinance that is leaving everyone satisfied in what he called a win-win situation.
The ordinance changes will go into effect shortly.
The downtown farmers market runs every Tuesday from 9 a.m. to 1 p.m. There are also markets on Wednesday and Saturday at the Benbrook Traffic Circle.