For Immediate Release
New Permit Process Reflects Evolving Farmers Market Practices
As spring weather finally begins to warm up, farmers markets in Greene County are seeing more activity and extended hours. But farmers markets are often a year-round enterprise and with consumer attitudes shifting more and more toward locally grown food, farmers market activity in Springfield and Greene County have increased significantly in recent years.
The increased interest and activity has prompted the Springfield-Greene County Health Department to make a change this year in how it approaches issuing permits to and inspection of vendors at farmers markets. The department now issues permits valid for six months and allows the vendor to either sample their product in small bite-size portions or prepare and serve whole portions only at farmer's markets.
Previously, vendors were required to obtain a single-day "temporary event" permit if they were sampling or preparing food for sale at a farmers market.
"In the past, the traditional model of simply selling whole vegetables or pre-packaged meat was the way most vendors did business at farmers markets in our county," said Eric Marcol, Public Health Investigator and the department's point person for farmers markets. "But in recent years the focus has shifted to the experience of sampling and tasting vendors' wares."
The new process is streamlined not only for vendors' convenience, but also because it makes sense for the department staff, who no longer must inspect each and every vendor's "temporary event." The six-month permit is coupled with a training requirement of all vendors and farmers market managers, and the vendors follow essentially the same guidelines and standards as any brick-and-mortar restaurant serving similar foods. More than 100 vendors have undergone training so far.
Permits are available as either high priority (preparing and serving whole portions) or low priority (sampling in only bite-size portions). High priority permitted vendors will receive two unannounced inspections within their 6-month period and low priority permitted vendors will receive one inspection within their 6-month period. Because this is a new practice for 2013, there is no fee associated with the permits this year. If the program is successful for all parties and continued beyond 2013, it can be included in the next City fee study to determine a cost.
"The Springfield-Greene County Health Department recognizes the health, economic and civic value of fresh, locally-grown food," said Kevin Gipson, Director of Public Health. "The new seasonal farmers market permit process reflects our continued support for the local food movement, while still holding public health and safety in the highest regard."
"The popularity of farmers markets has just really jumped in these last few years," Marcol said. "There are seven farmers markets in Greene County, four of which are in Springfield and three that operate nearly year-round. Our hope is that this process makes it easier for vendors to do business, gives citizens easier access to healthy food, and makes the best use of staff time and taxpayer resources."
For more information about, or to apply for, the Season Farmers Market Permit, visit the department's website at http://health.springfieldmo.gov/farmersmarket.