Peachtree Road Farmers MarketBy Collin Kelley

Citizen complaints about the lack of regulation over weekend farmers markets have led the City of Atlanta to begin requiring permits, and organizers fear these new costs will drive the markets out of business. The markets potentially affected include Morningside, East Lake, East Atlanta Village, Peachtree Road and the Southwest Outdoor Organic Market.

Local farmers markets have become a weekend hallmark as many residents opt for fresh, locally grown food, sustainable products and artisan goods.

A mass e-mail sent by the organizers of the Morningside Farmers Market – which has been in operation for 15 years – said, as of two weeks ago, farmers markets are now subject to the same rules and permit requirements as large one time events, such as concerts and festivals. “If these policies continue to be enforced, it will increase the financial burden on our vendors,” the email said, and encouraged market patrons to write to Mayor Kasim Reed asking him not to apply restrictive fees to the markets.

Mandy Schmidt Mahoney, Director of Sustainability for the City of Atlanta, said the city had never paid attention to the farmers markets until it received citizens complaints – one from a vendor who wanted to sell mobile phones and was denied by a local market and another from a citizen concerned because a market didn’t have have a public safety plan for fire, rescue and police.

Mahoney said the city was required to investigate the complaints and also asked nonprofit Georgia Organics – which works to integrate local, sustainable food into the community – to inspect the markets and make recommendations. “The markets are vending on private property, but there are certain things they must have to meet fire and safety codes,” Mahoney said.

Mahoney stressed that the city had no plans to shut the markets down, but wanted to work with them to insure they were meeting safety requirements. One requirement is easily rectified: the markets must submit site drawings showing emergency lanes, water sources and a map of the booth layout for fire and police. Another issue that might wind up costing the markets money is having a public safety officer onsite. The cut off for attendance is 250 people before an officer would be required. There’s also an administrative permit cost, which costs $250 but is good for 90 days, Mahoney said.

“”I have been working with each market to get them into compliance. We don’t want to put a burden on the markets and vendors,” Mahoney said. “We want to carve out a special part of the law to promote and protect farmers markets. I hope to make a recommendation to the mayor’s office in a couple of weeks.”

INtown will continue to follow this story as it develops.

2 replies on “Local farmers markets worry about city fees”

  1. I am wondering why the farmers markets are being fingered for fees when the boot camps that use the Piedmont Park every day of the year are not paying fees to use the park…I have spoken to some of the instructors who are given just a cup of coffee for their work and they have stated that the boot camps charge a fee in the range of 200 to 400 dollars for a class per member and are classes of anywhere from 10 to 20 with 4 classes going on at once in the morning. that would be pretty substancial profit and they pay no fees to the city of Atlanta.

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