Pick up some homegrown tomatoes, some fresh sweet corn and a nice bottle of wine. Soon you’ll be able to do it all in one place, and it won’t be one of those fancy mega-marts.
More like a simple farmers market.
A state law went into effect July 1 that allows Kansas wineries to sell their wines at licensed farmers markets.
“We have quite a few customers who ask us about that possibility weekly,” said Don Bryant, who has applied for his rural McLouth winery to start selling at the Lawrence Farmers’ Market. “I think it will give a little bit different perspective to farmers market customers. Hopefully it will attract some new customers.”
It also may give farmers markets a unique retail advantage by making them one of the few places in the state that can sell both wine and groceries. Kansas grocery and convenience stores, for example, are prohibited from selling wine and liquor.
Lawrence city commissioners at their Tuesday night meeting made the necessary changes to allow the wine to be sold on the city property that hosts the Lawrence Farmers’ Market. Bryant, who owns Jefferson Hill Vineyard and Guest House, is waiting for his state license and hopes to begin selling in the next couple of weeks.
The new law won’t allow for wine tastings, which are common at individual wineries. It also won’t allow the wineries to sell wine by the glass at farmers markets.
Wineries in some states, Bryant said, make more than half their sales at farmers markets. He said Kansas vintners will get the opportunity to sell at local markets, in part, because of a bad joke.
In 2007 when then-Gov. Kathleen Sebelius made a joke about the quality of Kansas wine to a Washington state crowd, Sebelius felt so bad about the derogatory nature of her comments that she sent each Kansas winemaker a personal note of apology.
Bryant responded with a note of his own, suggesting the idea of allowing wine to be sold at farmers markets. About two weeks later, a meeting with Sebelius and the state’s secretary of agriculture had been arranged.
“They agreed that they could get this done,” Bryant said. “It was great.”
The new law also included a provision that makes it easier for Kansas winemakers to ship their products via the U.S. mail, said Sarah Larison, a marketing representative with the state’s Department of Commerce.
Bryant said the changes should help the wine industry’s long-term growth in the state.
“This is definitely a good step,” Bryant said. “I think given time, Kansas’ wine industry could easily rival Missouri’s wine industry. The key is making Kansans more aware of the wine industry. All of this will help.”
Horizon 2020 change
Commissioners on Tuesday also agreed to open the door to a possible retreat and conference center development in rural Douglas County.
Commissioners approved a change to Horizon 2020 — the city and county’s comprehensive plan — that would allow retreat and conference center development in portions of Douglas County, as long as the developments met certain requirements.
The change in the comprehensive plan was requested by a local development group that wants to build a conference center and retreat on property between Lawrence and Lecompton. That project still must receive several approvals from the Douglas County Commission.
County commissioners are expected to hear the zoning request for that property in the next several weeks.