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Dallas Farmers Market readies 'Shed' for local farmers

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The Shed may not be totally finished, but the new owners of the Dallas Farmers Market made good on their promise to have local farmers back in familiar, if refurbished, surroundings by Labor Day Weekend.

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Thursday was a quiet day at the market, and as a few remaining workers at the site finished stenciling the floor and others removed construction fencing, it felt like a victory had been won. Even though local farmers have been happily sharing space and filling the center aisle of Shed 3 since last spring, long-term market sellers say they will be happy to be back in familiar surroundings. Those surroundings, though, have a different flavor today.

The aging roofed space that has been the center of local produce sales for decades is a little "shinier" now, with a performance stage at one end, newly painted booth markers on the concrete floor, clean and green metal siding and a stylish wooden sign that proclaims its existence. No longer will shoppers be allowed to drive through the shed and park in front of their favorite vendors. It's still open to the elements, allowing the farmers to easily unload their trucks and stock their booths, and it remains to to be seen what other changes are to come. It is also unclear at this point whether farmers will have a presence on weekdays, or if it will continue primarily as a weekend market. Tentative plans call for occasional live music, demonstrations and other special events in the shed.

The Shed's reopening marks the first in the series of planned improvements to the Dallas Farmers Market, which has been operated by the city on the same site since 1941. Under a joint municipal/private redevelopment plan, it is hoped that the market district will morph into a shopping, entertainment and dining destination for locals as well as tourists, much like Seattle's Pike Place Market or the "Wharf" Fish Market in Washington, D.C. Current plans call for the bulk of the work to be completed by mid-2015. Shed 1, which is the only enclosed and air-conditioned space at the market, closed August 1 so that work could begin on its facelift. When it reopens it will be with restaurant spaces and other attractions, including a beer garden and patio area.

The area adjacent to the market itself is also experiencing a resurgence, with construction of nearby condominium residences, the recent opening of The Green Door, a brew pub and casual dining spot, in a former bank building, and the planned establishment of a culinary institute and community garden on adjacent property. Art in a variety of forms, including sculpture, whimsical tables and stools, the traditional red tractor and panels of graffiti art are also in evidence. This week, the North Texas Food Bank announced that its administrative offices will be relocated to the Farmers Market in 2015. In addition, modern parking facilities and some retail spaces are planned. The Farmers Market is open every day of the year except Thanksgiving, Christmas and New Years Day.

Despite some problems, both financial and otherwise, over the past few years, the Dallas Farmers Market has entered an exciting new phase of existence; if the trend continues, it should enjoy a vibrant and healthy old age. The increase in popularity of farmers markets in the Dallas-Fort Worth area over the past few years reflects a nationwide trend toward consumption of fresh, local produce and locally sourced food of all types, including meats, cheeses, wines and breads.

Consumers can also find other products: honey, soaps, nuts, teas, herbs and spices, and crafts items.

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