Mary Geddes loves dogs. She loves fresh fruits and vegetables, too. But the woman from Springfield, Ill., is a little disturbed at farmers markets when she sees shoppers pet the occasional dog on a leash and then touch the produce.
“People come around and pet the dogs, and the next thing you know, they are squeezing the peaches and tomatoes,” said Geddes, 85, who does volunteer work at Memorial Medical Center in Springfield. “Where is the health department?”
One of the joys of open-air markets is the friendly, casual atmosphere, and for many markets, that means allowing well-behaved, restrained dogs to mingle with shoppers. But dogs aren’t a good fit at all markets.
“It’s an issue across the country, and markets handle it differently,” said Pat Stieren of Springfield, executive director of the Illinois Farmers Market Association, a nonprofit that supports farmers markets in Illinois through training, technical assistance and grant writing.
The topic of dogs comes up often in her meetings and conferences.
“At Urbana’s (Ill.) Market on the Square, dogs are prohibited. But the Green City Market in Chicago honors dogs. Woodstock (Ill.) has a wonderful market. It’s on a beautiful town square, and they allow dogs. It really depends on the community and how the market is set up,” Stieren said.
Foot traffic at farmers markets usually is crowded, and dogs can get stepped on or become agitated. Sanitation also can be an issue when animals get near food items or when shoppers pet dogs before touching fresh food.
Springfield’s Old Capitol Farmers Market allows dogs, and it partners with Illinois Humane to sponsor a canine costume contest each Halloween season.
“We do recognize it is sort of a sticky point,” said market manager Ann Frescura of Downtown Springfield Inc. She said dogs generally seem to be welcome by shoppers at the downtown market.
“If we receive a number of valid complaints, we would take a look at whether we should allow them,” she said.Food editor Kathryn Rem can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org. Follow her via twitter.com/KathrynRemSJR.