Farmer’s markets are a great way to promote local food, drink, and wares as well as encourage the local economy. This has been a growing trend in recent years, as more people are looking to eat local and many people are seeking alternate ways to make a living. Outdoor farmer’s markets can run all year in the Florida Keys, and several markets have grown to be very popular amongst locals and tourists alike. Vendors in Islamorada should be aware, however, that the village could be imposing important regulations that may impact all farmer’s markets in the village.
The charge to regulate Islamorada’s farmer’s markets is largely coming from the Local Planning Agency in the village. The LPA defines a farmer’s market as one that sells local farm products, including local produce, food, and drinks. The group reports that it has analyzed regulations from other cities around the state to create a new proposed ordinance to regulate farmer’s markets in Islamorada.
Several changes are being suggested. One of the biggest changes suggested is that 40% of goods sold must be local produce - including plants, vegetables, and fruits. The original proposal had that percentage set at 51%. However, it was decided that this was quite steep for an area that has no actual local farms, and so a compromise was set at 40%. Many locals feel this is still too high, as many local vendors come to markets to sell their crafts and wares instead of produce, and feel they will be left out with the proposed model. The LPA says that “local produce” can also include locally made jams and jellies, juices, smoothies, coffee, local teas and spices, and other such products. Even so, the head of the Florida Keys Farmer’s Market in Islamorada - which runs every Sunday - says that the 51% rule would certainly force a closure of the market, and the 40% rule may as well.
Also of concern to vendors is the proposed limit on the number of vendors permitted. The current proposal would set the cap on the number of vendors permitted to operate at a farmer’s market at 30 to help ease traffic concerns. Farmer’s markets can be held one day per week, and must be located more than one mile apart from any other market when operating at the same time. While the LPA cites concerns of safety and traffic issues that warrant these restrictions, local vendors are worried that this may render their businesses shut down.
Other regulations include the requirement of having restroom facilities on site and parking limitations as well. One of the biggest changes is that, with the proposed ordinance, a market must appoint a person in charge to submit a site plan application as well as to secure a temporary use permit every year. These previously have not been required and have many vendors concerned about the costs associated with having to comply.
Islamorada’s Local Planning Agency believes that enacting regulations on local farmer’s markets is necessary to control growth and address issues that have come up in the past.
The proposal will be brought before the Islamorada Village Council on April 21 for consideration. Local residents of Islamorada real estate and vendors alike will be given the opportunity to express their viewpoints on the issue. Any changes would likely take place later this year.