Agriculture Commissioner responds after petition launches to save the State Farmers Market from redevelopment

RALEIGH (WTVD) -- The head of the North Carolina Dept. of Agriculture is responding to a group of wholesalers whose online petition to save the State Farmers Market has gained more than nine thousand signatures in less than two days.

Steve Troxler, Agriculture Commissioner, said in a statement Monday there is no plan to cancel any vendor's lease.

However, according to a Master Plan for the market, the wholesale terminals adjacent to Dix Park could potentially be redeveloped into retail space.

Vaughn Ford, a fourth generation wholesaler with his family's company, Ford's Produce, helped start an online petition Sunday, calling on state and city leaders to keep the State Farmers Market the way it is, asking supporters to not allow the city to "trade the Farmers Market for luxury, high end, expensive condos."

Vaughn said while the Master Plan's includes some needed improvements to the State Farmers Market such as modern upgrades and improved traffic patterns, he was surprised to see that in later phases of implementation, longtime tenants like his family's business would be displaced to make room for retail and mixed-use development.

"The wholesalers are the volume users of the farmers market," Ford said. "We pay more than half of the rent at the farmers market. We're the people here year-round and keep the lights on."

Ford said if the wholesalers are forced out, the farmers who come to the market to sell their produce would feel the blow.

"All three of the components are here- the farmers are here, the wholesalers are here, and the retailers are here," Ford said. "So it brings all the buyers to one place and all the sellers to one place and that creates a food hub. So many areas of the country have a food desert, we've got a good hub that's right here next to downtown Raleigh- easy access for people all over the Triangle and it's getting pulled apart."

In his statement, Troxler said any changes to the Farmers Market are at least 25 years down the road, but noted that real estate values are already dramatically increasing:

"The N.C. Department of Agriculture and Consumer Services understands there is community concern about the future of the State Farmers Market in Raleigh. I can assure you that all of us fully support the farmers market and will continue to support it in the future."

"We look forward to working with our vendors and patrons so that the market can reach its full potential. The State Farmers Market has done what any responsible organization does and has a plan for its future. There is no plan to cancel any vendor's lease."

"When planning for the future of the market, our goals center around supporting farmers, creating an identity and an experience and connecting to Dix Park and the surrounding destinations."

"While no one can be certain what the market will look like in 25 years, our goal is to provide the best possible outcome for people who sell and buy at the market."

"What we know now is appraisal values of real estate have dramatically increased. While we want to provide the most affordable rate possible, we are bound by state law to lease at a fair market value rate."
"It is important to remember that any changes will be many years, possibly 25 years or more, down the road. Any change will also require a large cash infusion of up to $80 million, which we have not seen any indication will materialize."

"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."

"Please go to this link to see an executive summary of the master plan for the State Farmers Market."
Copyright © 2021 WTVD-TV. All Rights Reserved.