It was a jam-packed Saturday at the Dallas Farmers Market, according to the Dallas Morning News, as the long-awaited refurbished "Shed" reopened. The colors, tastes and variety of local produce and artisan foodstuffs attracted local foodies and contributed to a festive atmosphere. As late as Thursday afternoon, there was little evidence of what was in store.
This weekend's opening, promised in time for the Labor Day crowd, marks the initial step in the comprehensive redesign of the Dallas' Farmers Market District. The market itself has operated on the same spot under city authority since 1941, and it was a trading center for local farmers long before that.
Modern developers envision the market as the "jewel in the crown" of a new larger-neighborhood resurgence. Already in evidence are newly constructed and inhabited "vintage design" brick townhomes sporting flower pots on their balconies. In addition, one new eatery, The Green Door, is now open in a historic space, and a handful of new restaurants will join the lineup by next summer, occupying space in the existing Shed 2 building now closed for renovation. Mudhen, a new venture by familiar Dallas restaurateur Shannon Wynne will reportedly rely heavily on the market's seasonal food offerings, as well as having a large patio and beer garden.
The road to the future was a long one, spanning almost a decade of planning meetings, threatened closures, aborted redevelopment concepts and false starts. But, following the city's sale last year to a private firm, and a joint commitment to turn the down-and-out market district into a destination attraction as well as a vibrant locale for locals to live, work and shop, it now looks as if "the train has left the station."
There was concern and uncertainly in 2013 at the time the announcement was made that Shed 1, home of the local farmers, would be closed pending redevelopment. Several vendors expressed dismay -- some even noting that they were considering leaving the market. Today, however, it appears that the almost 75-year-old market has been reawakened with new vigor.
Vendors and shoppers alike seem to like the new configuration: The expanded open pavilion feels spacious, offers convenient access, has lighting, misters and even heat for cold days, and will serve as the heart of the planned market complex. A newly-installed stage at one end will lend itself to live music performances as well as cooking demonstrations.
As recently as Thursday, workers were still stenciling booth numbers on the new concrete floor and removing temporary construction fencing. Now, however, the vendors have set up shop, the produce and other goods are on display, Brightly-colored tents and banners are installed, and the party has begun. All vendors are asked to disclose the origin of their goods, where it was raised or produced and how: Traditional farming, all natural or certified organic. There are local farmers as well as those who bring in fruits and vegetables from farther afield, including the "Valley" and as far away as California. According to one report, there were even apples from New Zealand.
There is also more than just fresh food. Local growers and producers supply meats, cheeses, honey, jams, pickles, nuts, baked goods, fresh pasta, juices, wines, herbs, spices and other condiments. As the market finds its stride, look for other food-themed events such as classes, demonstrations and periodic market dinners and tastings.
If you haven't bought the ingredients yet for your Labor Day cookout, now is the time.
The best part of the Dallas Farmers Market? It's open every day all year long, rain or shine, only closing for Thanksgiving, Christmas and New Years Day. It definitely seems that the best is yet to come at the Market.