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County Council passes initial approval of farmers' market overhaul

This article first appeared in the St. Louis Beacon, March 14, 2012 - After weeks of delays, the St. Louis County Council passed without opposition Tuesday a revised ordinance regulating farmers’ markets. Market managers had complained that the current permits are too expensive and inconvenient for some.

The ordinance needs another vote for final passage.

Council members made several changes to the original proposal. For instance, the initial bill would have granted certain vendors a permit to sell at farmers’ markets for seven months. In the newest version, vendors could get permits for 120 days in a calendar year.

Councilman Pat Dolan, D-Richmond Heights, said that means that a vendor could operate at a market for two days a week for a year before the permit expires.

The new version also would charge certain vendors who aren’t Missouri farmers $50 for a permit for the first farmers’ market location and $30 for a second, third, fourth and fifth location. It would charge no more than $193 for six or more farmers’ locations with concurrent operating dates.

Farmers’ market vendors who cook food on site would pay $75 for the first permit, $50 for the second and $50 for the third. They would pay $193 if they operate at four or more locations at the same time.

“When we were first approached about it, we saw a need to provide a change,” Dolan said. “There was no problem with the council to try and work with them to change it.”

Brian DeSmet, market manager of the Maplewood Farmers’ Market, said he’s satisfied with the final version of the ordinance. Some had expressed concern that the original version of the ordinance could complicate winter markets, such as the one in Maplewood.

“I think (the way) they’ve laid it out is pretty fair for everybody,” DeSmet said. “There are minor quibbles here and there -- but nothing that I would want to hold up the bill and get the lower fees for our farmers market vendors this season.”

Deb Henderson, market manager for the Clayton Farmers’ Market, said that she would have preferred for permits to last for a full calendar year.

The council is off next week, so the earliest the ordinance could be sent to St. Louis County Executive Charlie Dooley is March 27.

“We could have gone through and pushed it all the way through tonight,” Dolan said. “And there could have been some reservations at just the appearance that we were trying to rush it through. Which is not the case – we’ve been transparent throughout this whole process.”

Jason is the politics correspondent for St. Louis Public Radio.

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