Ellisville Farmers Market Master René Sackett said Friday that a recent proposal advanced by the St. Louis County Council could simplify the market process for certain food vendors.
Sackett said most of the proposed changes are aimed at vendors serving pre-made foods. Those vendors would pay a permit fee of $50 for their first location and $30 for each additional location. Food establishments, meanwhile would be subject to a $75 fee for their first location and $50 for each additional location, with fees for either capped at $193 for a season, The St. Louis Post-Dispatch reported.
Previously, Sackett said, the St. Louis County Health Department required pre-made food vendors to fill out permits and pay fees every two weeks, in addition to separate fees and forms for any additional market locations.
"This was very expensive for the market food vendors," Sackett said in an email.
If the county proposal is approved, the new requirements would mark the first time produce vendors would be charged fees by the county, Sackett said, although Ellisville market organizers to date have charged a weekly fee to vendors in order to recoup costs from renting a space at Bluebird Park.
The county's proposal also would eliminate a requirement to re-apply for a permit within the same season.
Sackett did not say she supported or opposed the fees, but hoped any final decisions ultimately help streamline the setup process.
"The area market masters and vendors were not always getting consistent information and consistent inspections from market-to-market due to the lack of real market regulations," Sackett said. "I hope when all of this is finished, it will be much better for the markets and market food vendors, and much easier on our (county health) inspectors."
Sackett also said she hopes any decisions aimed at refining market business practices take into consideration the scale of most farmers markets.
"We are not competing with grocery stores or even trying to provide a place for folks to buy everything they could possibly need for their household's food preparation."