As a child in the 1950s,  Jimmy Burch Sr. remembers waking up at 3:00 a.m. to cram into a pick-up truck loaded with collard greens and turnips and head to the state farmers market in Raleigh, an hour north of the family farm in Faison. That was before the market moved next to Dorothea Dix Park, and farmers would wait in a row of trucks for the gates at Hodges Street to open at 5 a.m..

“It was a way of life for me,” Burch recalls. “That’s the way we made our living.” 

Things at the farmer’s market have changed a lot since then and they are poised to change even more as the Dix Park Master Plan inches closer to reality. But Burch and other wholesale farmers worry the state’s plans for the farmer’s market–separate, but concurrent to the updates at the park–will cut many wholesalers out of the deal and hurt their businesses. 

They’ve circulated a petition– which so far has over 13,000 signatures–to “save the Raleigh State Farmers Market” from the development plan which “would displace long standing tenants of the market in favor of luxury condominiums, playgrounds and a boutique hotel.” 

The plans aims to modernize the market and bring in more revenue while creating greater connectivity to Dix Park, NC State and surrounding neighborhoods. This includes the creation of several “districts” that will convert the existing wholesale building into “retail with spaces at either end for engaging evening activity.” The plans also call for an agriculture museum, event center and “mixed-use development” with retail, housing and office space.

Following backlash this weekend, State Department of Agriculture Commissioner Steve Troxler assured the public “all us us fully support the farmers market and will continue to support it in the future,” and that the plans will allow the market “to reach its full potential.”

The plans will take $80 million to come to fruition, which won’t materialize without private investment. Additionally, Troxler says the department is bound by state law to lease the land at market rate. 

“While no one can be certain what the market will look like in twenty-five years, our goal is to provide the best possible outcome for people who sell and buy at the market,” Troxler said in a statement Monday. “Any master plan is the beginning and can change over time based on future demand and the highest and best use of land for the public and vendors.” 

But farmers like Vaughn Ford aren’t buying it.

“There’s no higher use of this property than feeding the public and supporting our local farmers. That’s the highest and best use of this property,” Ford told the INDY. 

Ford’s farm has been selling at the market since 1946. Removing wholesalers from the equation, he says, would “change the face of the market.” 

“You need to keep the wholesale combined with the retail so everyone has one spot to go to and buy anything,” Burch says. 

Meanwhile, the Raleigh City Council is expected to green light a bidding process to find a firm to design the first phase of the Dix Park redevelopment, known as the “Gateway.” Project manager Kate Pearce says although the city isn’t involved with the state’s farmers market plan, she understands the concern: her office faced a similar backlash to some of the developments initially planned for Dix, which were subsequently scaled back following input from the community.

“I think we’re a growing community and people are obviously rightly concerned about what the form of growth, what that looks like, but I do think the way we get to a place where we feel comfortable with that is through planning and through smart decisions,” Pearce says. 

Burch says he has no problem with development going into the park or farmers market, but there needs to be place for wholesalers too.

“They are the ones that made this market, why kick them out now? That makes no sense to me. They are the reason people go there,” Burch says. “I understand if you want to add restaurants and bars–yeah, sure, great, I’m all for that. That’s wonderful–but don’t cut out the reason people started going there in the first place.” 

One reply on “Development Instead of Wholesalers at the State Farmers Market? Some Say No Way”

  1. What evidence is there that any proposed development (hotels, apartments, etc.) associated with the Dix Master Plan will go on the land that the wholesaler warehouse is on now? Doesn’t the NCDA own the farmers market and the City of Raleigh owns Dix Park, so the City doesn’t really have any power over development on the farmers market, correct? This seems like fear mongering about development without any feasible threat of development

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