After receiving many calls and concerns about the fate of the State Farmers Market, N.C. Agriculture Commissioner Steve Troxler wanted to be clear Thursday: claims that the market is moving or being sold are not true.
In a news conference on the farmers market property Thursday, Troxler said residents have worried that the market is being shut down after seeing a petition to “save the market.”
“It is time for us to clear the air and bring the correct information out there,” Troxler said. “There are a lot of people who believe there are overtures out there to turn this market into high-end condos because of the Dix Park. It is not true.”
A petition began circulating last month asking people to “Save the Raleigh State Farmers Market.” More than 20,000 people have signed the petition, and signs have appeared around the city referencing the petition.
“If anyone had approached me about wanting to close this market, move this market, you would have heard me screaming from heaven to hell, and everywhere in between,” Troxler said. “There have been no such overtures made to me or the Department of Agriculture. In the future, I can assure if there are such suggestions made, I will have tractors in the street to protest this.”
The long-term plan for the market
The market may not be moving or closing, but changes are being suggested.
The state just completed a long-term plan for the State Farmers Market, which is next to Dorothea Dix Park. The plan calls for adding more restaurants, retail, moving the dairy barn to Dix Park for an agriculture museum and adding new entrances and parking, among other things.
The plan also calls for changing the wholesale section of the market by adding retail, taverns and restaurants. But that would push long-time businesses to an undisclosed location, potentially off the property.
This wouldn’t change the part of the market people currently visit but would mean changes for the wholesale businesses. They are the ones behind the petition.
“A lot of people are saying we are spreading misinformation,” said Vaughn Ford, one of the owners of Ford’s Produce, which has been a wholesaler at the market since it opened in 1991.
“Everything that we have said comes directly from the master plan,” Ford said. “We have not said anything that is not in the master plan. We have expanded on the ramifications of (the plan but) we have never said the market is going away. But what is happening is it is fundamentally changed.”
The wholesalers bring in money for the farmers market and they are a “viable and vital part” of the market, Troxler said.
“(The master plan) proposes a redesign to create a more inviting transition between farmers market and Dix Park area,” he said. “Revamping the wholesale space would lead to spaces for more restaurants, agriculture products, butchers and cheese shops.”
Revamped or changed?
Ford stood in the back of Thursday’s new conference, listening to Troxler. He said he wouldn’t use the word revamped.
“Revamped sounds like a paint job and renovations,” he said. “What is going to be done is it is going to be changed to retail and restaurant shops. There will be no produce dealers on the market anymore.”
The plan also calls for 450,000 feet of mixed-used development on the farmers market property, but behind where the actual market is located. The farmers market property is shaped like an upside down lamp with the market on the lamp shade. The development would be located on the lamp base running along the western part of Dix Park.
But those changes wouldn’t come until decades in the future, and there is no funding set aside for those endeavors, Troxler said.
Once the signs went up around the city, the department began getting a few calls from developers asking to work with the department, he said.
But the state won’t break any leases with the wholesalers, and the changes wouldn’t happen until 30 or 40 years in the future as Dix Park is also developed.