By John Schaffner
Managers of several Atlanta farmers markets are asking customers to voice support for the markets as they negotiate with city officials over regulations on the markets and their vendors.
“It has come to the attention of the mayor’s office that there really are not existing regulations that are directed to the needs of the farmers markets,” said Lauren Carey, manager of the Peachtree Road Farmers Market in Buckhead. “They and we want to be in compliance with safety and permitting issues.”
Carey said existing regulations apply to parades, street closures, concerts or festivals. Although she said the farmers market is “very festive,” it does not fall into any of those categories.
“We are working with the mayor’s office to first define what is a farmers market and then look at regulations that are appropriate for us and meet their standards,” Carey said. “We are seeking policies that recognize our needs and our small budgets, as well as the needs for safety of our customers. The current policies would have a crippling effect on markets and local farmers.”
Carey said the market is asking its customers “to reach out to the mayor’s office and say how much they appreciate the farmers market, the cooperative attitude (the city) has had to date” and as the city makes these new rules that they are not too much of a financial or workload burden on organizations “that often are run exclusively by volunteers and have little or no budgets.”
Carey said, “The mayor’s office and all of city government have been amazing so far. Nobody wants to close down a farmers market. Who doesn’t love a farmers market? We just want to show them how many people care about the farmers market.”
The Peachtree Road Farmers Market is scheduled from 8:30 a.m. until noon every Saturday from April to mid-December. It operates in the parking lot of the Cathedral of St. Philip at Peachtree and Rumson roads.
In three years, the market has grown to over 30 vendors of locally produced organic food products and other locally produced items. It attracts approximately 1,000 customers each week.
Asked if the vendors at the Peachtree Road market have permits, Carey said it depends on the vendor. “If they are a prepared food vendor, then they have to have permits from the Department of Agriculture and the Department of Health, depending on what they sell and how,” she said. “Our farmers are regulated also by the Department of Agriculture.”
She said vendors who sell live plants and candle-makers also are licensed.
“There already are a lot of regulatory bodies involved,” Carey added. “The ones that are new to us are the fire department, the mayor’s office of special events permitting and the police department.”
Carey said the issue arose after someone complained to “all of the regulatory agencies.”
A coalition of market managers representing groups on Peachtree Road, in the Morningside Market, East Lake and East Atlanta Village neighborhoods, as well as the new Swoon Market are working with city officials, she said.
The Most Reverend Sam Candler of the Cathedral of St. Philips, who greeted customers on May 15, said he considers the market a way the cathedral serves its neighborhood.
“I think everybody is trying to do the right thing,” he said. “It appeals to goodwill and good faith here and our whole market is about good faith. I think we are trying to be responsible and the city is trying to be responsible. I think we can work something out.
Text of letter people are asked to sign and send to Mayor Kasim ReedDear Mayor Reed and city government leaders:I am writing you as a constituent to ask for your support in ensuring that local farmers markets are able to operate in our city. I appreciate the support your office has provided as your administration seeks to create a space for farmers markets in the city policies. I ask that the city not place undue burden, financial or otherwise, on our farmers markets as the policies are being drafted to govern their activities.