This architectural drawing (above) shows the location of the current
Dallas Farmers Market, which was built in 1941. That’s not the
downtown mixmaster behind the market; it’s rail lines.
THE 70-YEAR ANNIVERSARY OF DALLAS FARMERS MARKET IS BEING CELEBRATED WITH AN EXHIBIT AT THE DALLAS CITY HALL FROM DECEMBER 7-24.
“Growing With Dallas: 70 years of the Farmers Market” chronicles the market’s history since its establishment in 1941 at its current Pearl Street location. The exhibit, organized by City Archivist John H. Slate, consists of photos, memorabilia and early drawings culled from the Dallas Municipal Archives, City Secretary’s Office.
The Municipal Produce Market, as it was known then, was hardly the city’s first produce market. Early Dallas Morning News clips suggest that the first public market in the 1890s was inside city hall – yes, the stalls were on the first floor. According to the paper, it was “often smelly and a constant source of complaint.” In the early 1900s, the market was moved to what is now Pearl Street and Main, just west of North Central Expressway, where it endured through the 1930s. Farmers slept in their trucks or on the sidewalk the night before market day. Even then, truckers hauled up produce, such as cabbage, from the Rio Grande Valley.
Dallas was nothing if not aspirational: “We are anxious to provide Dallas with adequate facilities that will make this the outstanding produce market in the Southwest,” said the acting city manager in 1941. When it finally got built—materials were in short supply during World War II—stalls at the new site went for 50 cents a day.
Even after the market was built in 1941, businesses continued to
conduct commerce around the periphery. This was the
way chickens and eggs came to market.
Completed in 1958, the Southland Life Insurance Building in the
background was under construction when this photo (left) was taken.
At the time, garbage was still simply dumped into the street.
The Hines Produce Co. opened at Canton and Pearl in 1925 and is still
owned and operated by the Hines family, now as Hines Nut Co. at a
nearby location. The presence of awnings suggests a pre-1950 date,
when the company stayed open 24/7 because it had no doors to lock.
The ritual of selling produce under the Dallas Farmers Market
sheds has continued throughout its 70-year history.
The cellophane bag was an innovation of Henry Forschmidt,
who brought the first washed and bagged carrots to the market.
Joe “Joe Joe” LaBarba (in center, with sunglasses) attended an auction
at the market in the late 1960s to buy produce for his family’s
company, American Produce.
KIM PIERCE is a Dallas freelance writer and editor who’s covered farmers markets and the locavore scene for some 30 years, including continuing coverage at The Dallas Morning News. She came by this passion writing about food, health, nutrition and wine. She and her partner nurture a backyard garden (no chickens – yet) and support local producers and those who grow foods sustainably. Back in the day, she co-authored The Phytopia Cookbook and more recently helped a team of writers win a 2014 International Association of Culinary Professionals Cookbook Award for The Oxford Encyclopedia for Food and Drink in America.