No rotten tomatoes were thrown, but the Minneapolis City Council had a bit of a food fight Friday on the way to redefining farmers markets and how they must be run.
The revamped ordinance is designed to foster the city's initiative promoting healthy foods and to bolster existing markets. But the council split after sharp debate, deciding that most farmers markets must normally be outdoors but need not be run by a nonprofit.
The proposal, approved 12-1, sets up three types of markets with differing requirements for each. For example, at least 60 percent of the sellers at a farmers market must be people who sell food that they actually produce. No more than 25 percent can be those who don't sell food but rather crafts or services they produce or provide themselves. The rest can be people who sell such items as plants or food they process themselves or prepare for immediate consumption. Flea-market sellers also are excluded.
The reason for being so prescriptive, according to David Nicholson, who has a leadership role in the Fulton and Kingfield neighborhood markets, is to protect what a farmers market traditionally has represented -- a place where consumers buy fresh food from the people who grow it. That's why the revisions limit people who simply resell food they don't produce. They can only sell produce not in season locally, such as bananas.
Market advocates wanted to limit operators of farmers markets to nonprofits because they fear incursions by grocery chains into the market business, Nicholson said. But Council Member Gary Schiff succeeded on a voice vote in dropping that requirement after he argued that the council shouldn't play favorites.
Nicholson said the change can undermine nonprofits that use markets to achieve other benefits such as access to healthy food in areas that lack it, promotion of micro-entrepreneurship, livelier street life and community building. "It's a great disappointment that a few members of council could not appreciate that work," he said. Cam Gordon, who sponsored the market proposal, voted against it after losing the nonprofit vote.
The council defeated on an 8-5 vote Schiff's attempt to delete a requirement that farmers markets and smaller mini-markets of up to five sellers be held outdoors, except for half a dozen indoor events. Schiff argued that markets such as the Global Market at Midtown Exchange should be allowed indoors, but others said they could still operate indoors as a produce and craft market.
The council also unanimously approved without discussion a controversial preliminary design remaking Peavey Plaza. It sets in motion the next steps for the downtown plaza project, which aims to make the park on Nicollet Mall more inviting and accessible. Opponents argue it goes too far in changing the original design.
The busy agenda Friday also included declaring an end to the tornado emergency, allowing the city's second micro-brewery to begin selling growlers and holding tours at its warehouse area location, approving a new rate structure for water and sewer charges that includes both flat and volume charges, and rejecting the proposed 21-story Parc Centrale tower proposed for Loring Hill.
A proposed $75 fine for people who don't clear walks of snow and ice was sent back to committee at Schiff's move. He said he'd like to explore an alternate system under which people who twice had ignored orders to clear walks and forced the city to send crews and bill them would get on a list for an immediate clear-and-bill routine, as used for tall-grass violators.
Steve Brandt • 612-673-4438