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New rule upsets some shoppers at State Farmers Market

A new rule banning splitting wholesale boxes of produce on the State Farmers Market premises is aimed at those re-selling the product and undercutting other retailers, not those who simply want to share fruit, officials said.

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RALEIGH, N.C. — Some customers at the State Farmers Market were upset Saturday when they found out about a new rule banning splitting wholesale boxes on market premises.

The rule bans customers from splitting wholesale boxes of products, such as fruit, while they are on the premises where the weekly market is held, said Ronnie Best, manager of the State Farmers Market.

Shoppers said they are used to being able to buy wholesale boxes together and then split the produce among themselves.

"Each person will get a small share and pay a little more," wholesale shopper Jai Wei said.

"This sharing has been a great way for everyone to benefit and continue to lead an affordable life, while still eating healthy," said Yari Johnson, a father of two and North Carolina State University graduate student. "I am at a loss for the following week. I do not have money to buy unfresh fruit from a grocery store, and I am unsure what I will do."

Market officials said the practice started about seven years and spread by word of mouth. It became popular and drew a diverse crowd.

"It's exciting," shopper Sandra Lair, a retired state worker, said. "People are pushing and shoving you, and you have to bargain for this and bargain for that. It's just like a regular flea market."

"You can share with different people, different groups ... and get to know different people," Wei said.

But the excitement praised by shoppers is one reason the practice had to be curtailed, Best said. The large crowds in Building Four had become a public-safety issue, he said.

"It's overwhelmed our staff. It's overwhelmed our parking," Best said. "It's just a huge crowd of people. ... We're just trying to get control of it."

Some shoppers said that it appeared they weren't allowed to split boxes at all anymore and felt harassed by state police handing out fliers and enforcing the new rule Saturday. Best said that the police were on hand for crowd control and are always on duty at the market.

The rule, he said, isn't aimed at individual customers who want to split boxes among themselves.

Instead, the problem was caused by people who bought the boxes in bulk and then re-sold the produce on the premises, he said. That practice harms legitimate sellers at the market, and market officials couldn't tell the difference between the groups.

"There were people bringing in product in this building to re-sell. They could've brought anything in here," Best said.

Customers can split boxes off the property, he said. Those seen re-selling or splitting boxes on the property will be asked to leave.

Wei said it was easier for customers to split up boxes at the market.


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