Farmers market event squashed without proper health permits
By Megan Grindstaff
Baylor students looking forward to fresh, local grocery shopping on campus will have to wait a semester. The upcoming farmers market event scheduled for Friday has been canceled from complications with obtaining the proper permits for participating vendors.
“It comes down to paperwork,” said Smith Getterman, assistant director of sustainability and special projects, whose department has organized and put on the event the last two semesters.
The past two semesters, the Waco Downtown Farmers Market has brought its vendors to campus for a special event for Baylor students. Previously, farmers and vendors who bring their products to the campus event have used the same paperwork that allows them to operate on a weekly basis.
“We’ve been operating under the permit that the farmers market uses downtown,” Getterman said.
However, the Waco Farmers Market Permit Ordinance, passed in 2011, requires multiple permits specific to the location of the event.
“The city of Waco has an ordinance specific for farmers markets,” said David Litke, program administrator for environmental health for the Waco/McLennan County Public Health District. “The ordinance has a lot of details about where it can be set up.”
For its weekly operation, the Waco Downtown Farmers Market organization procures the necessary permits for the whole market. Once vendors are selected based on the market’s criteria, the Waco Downtown Farmers Market’s permits cover the individual vendors, Litke said.
This semester, Aramark, the company that handles facility services, catering and dining services for Baylor, planned to host a food demonstration at the campus farmers market. In order to do so, the company had to procure a special permit from the Public Health District. When they applied for the food demo permit, it came to the attention of the Public Health District that the whole operation lacked the necessary documents, Getterman said.
“This is just a learning process,” he said. “It’s a completely new event on campus. There are going to be bumps and opportunities for learning along the way.”
After missing the last few on-campus farmers markets while she was studying abroad, Manhattan Beach, Calif., junior Sierra Bloodgood was eagerly anticipating attending the event later this month. Bloodgood said she hoped the on-campus farmers market would help spread her passion for fresh, homegrown food to the Baylor community.
“People who don’t usually go could see how cool it is and start going to the off-campus ones,” Bloodgood said. “The farmers market is a really good way to show students what we have in Waco.”
Bloodgood said her belief in the health benefits of buying local makes her a regular at the downtown farmers market.
“The difference in the quality of the produce you can get at the farmers market compared to what you can get at H.E.B., even if you buy organic, is unbelievable,” Bloodgood said.
The sustainability department plans to work out the necessary details and permits, revive the event in the fall and make it an annual occurrence, Getterman said. Until then, Baylor students like Bloodgood can still get their fix of fresh, local food at the Waco Downtown Farmers Market from 9 a.m. to 1 p.m. Saturday’s at 400 S. University Parks Drive, just past Interstate 35.