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New farmers' markets taking a huge hit from longstanding Health Department rules

Posted at 6:19 PM, Oct 29, 2019
and last updated 2019-10-29 19:19:51-04

COLLINSVILLE, Okla. — Farmers' markets give us a great place to shop local and help farmers and bakers make ends meet. Indoor shops are popping up around Green Country to give that same experience year-round, but some are taking a huge hit, losing dozens of products from their shelves.

Coze Huffman is retired, but keeps herself busy by baking her signature dessert at home - rum cakes.

"I made rum cakes - little individual rum cakes. It's a recipe that I have had for 35-40 years," Huffman said.

She would sell them at Farm Hippie in Collinsville until October 15, when the store was notified it was not, in fact, a farmers' market.

"I came in, and I looked over this way, and saw my shelf was empty," Huffman said. "And I thought, 'wow, we had a great weekend!' and then they gave me the bad news of what was going on."

Farm Hippie rents their shelves to farmers and locals like Huffman to sell their products. But according to the Oklahoma Department of Health, that's a retail store, not a farmers' market..

"If we can't get this as a farmers market and I have to go to a commercial kitchen, I don't think I'll be able to afford to do it," Huffman said. " It's $1 thousand just to get the license, and then whatever it takes to get the kitchen up to meeting the requirements. Which could be another $1,000 or more."

She sold her rum cakes for $4.50 apiece.

The problem is, the shop rents out shelf space like a farmers market, but the people who make the products don't sell them like a farmers market, which is required by the Health Department.

When the news came down two weeks ago, the store took an immediate $500 hit.

"We want to see regulations removed, to allow these home bakers to bring their same product into our storefront, the same way they could to an open-air farmers' market," said store owner Ash Winfield.

Winfield is trying to get the 18 bakers he lost back on the shelves by sparking change.

Their petition to get the issue in front of lawmakers reached the required 150 signatures in one week. Their goal is get a bill in the next legislative cycle that includes stores like theirs in the definition of farmers markets.

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