Monday, June 9, 2008

The Guerrilla Food Court

There's a food court springing up in a grassy lot off the street that holds the Ballard Farmers' Market. The vendors there rent space from the man who owns the property, rather than paying a stall fee to the folks who run the market. These guys are doing a great job and making wonderful food, but I can't help feeling like they shouldn't be there.

Sure, I resent the extra competition, but it's more than that. The rest of us have taken the trouble to go through established channels to be part of this event, and these food vendors haven't. The farmers' market spends plenty of money on marketing and outreach, and they work with the community to build something that meets the needs of neighborhood. These food vendors benefit from the work and investment of the market organizers without giving anything back to them. They also generate trash, which the market has to haul away.

At the same time, I always like to think of contemporary farmers' markets in a historical context. This kind of gathering of merchants and vendors is as old as civilization, and probably played a role in generating the earliest societies. And there must have always been people selling on the fringes of these events, not quite part of them, but somehow contributing to the experience. Like the Grateful Dead parking lot, or the vendors on the street as you make your way into a sporting event.

As much as I don't want them there, I'm open to the possibility that they'll help to make the Ballard Market even better than it already is.


stockpeople said...

Boooo! I hope the health department makes sure to get their $226 fee from them! And inspect them and ensure full compliance!!! When I inquired about vending at this lot through the proper channels, I was told it would not be allowed since it was not managed by an approved organizer! Maybe the city is too busy chasing "Food Not Bombs" out of Occidental Park on weekends!

Devra said...

Actually, the market managers called the health department to complain that they hadn't agreed to have these folks under their permit's umbrella. So the health department came down to inspect yesterday. When I asked the inspector about the outcome she said she hadn't seen them yet,but they might have a mobile food permit or a catering permit. I noticed that they were still selling at the end of the day, so I called the health department this morning to find out more about these other kinds of permits, and how I could get one. She said I'd need a truck with a 3 compartment sink, and these folks didn't have one so she'd shut them down. I wonder if they'll be there next week...