Joyce Kennedy, Orange County Master Gardeners

One equation to build community solidarity; health and well being, and economic stimulus could be:
Small farmers + creative craftspeople = Farmer’s Market.

Farmer’s Markets have traditionally been a meeting place for buyers and sellers alike. They were a place to see friends, catch up on local happenings, and trade information. Sometimes when cash was short, bartering systems were used. In many places throughout the world, Farmer’s Markets have been in existence for thousands of years. Many American cities have supported Farmer’s Markets since the 1700s. Today Farmer’s Markets are spreading beyond the cities as people become more educated about the benefits of locally grown organic foods. In addition, economic trends have made finding creative income supplements a necessity for many people.
Visiting Farmer’s Markets in various cities is a rewarding sideline to the usual tourist fare. In Texas, nearly every major city and many counties have an ongoing Farmer’s Market. In San Antonio, city parks are used by area farmer’s to bring their produce and products to the local neighborhoods. Fresh picked peaches, homemade hot tamales, heirloom tomatoes, and herbs were among the choices at one. There were also vendors with fresh cut sunflowers, zinnias, and lavender.

Recently at a Farmer’s Market in Houston near Rice University there were vendors selling homemade goat cheese, salad greens of every imaginable kind, and carrots and beets just pulled from the ground. Several vendors were selling ethnic foods that could be taken home and warmed for dinner. Even Vegan products were available. Just sampling the various offerings was a treat.

This fall, the Orange Convention and Visitors Bureau sponsored a Farmer’s Market at the library parking lot. The variety of products while small, was amazing. Fresh seasonal fruits and vegetables, jams and jellies, herbal skin products, handmade cards, plants, and other crafts were available and all locally grown or made.

Homemade baked goods, cookie mixes, and even scones and coffee were offered for sale.

This spring, the Farmer’s Market will be open again and hopefully there will be even more interest and participation. It began April 4 from 7 to 11 a.m., at Lion’s Park in Orange. It will continue each Saturday morning through the spring and summer. For the local farmers whether large or even backyard, this is a way to market your produce or products and make more money than selling wholesale. There is minimal startup – just a table and way to transport your goods. You have little or no packaging and advertising and you get immediate feedback on what the consumers are looking for.

For the consumer, it is a way to get high quality produce and products. Sometimes the prices are better than the retail markets, but the emphasis is on freshness and quality. You might find new varieties of produce to try and enjoy. You can also find resources for products you can’t find in local markets.

If you are looking for a way to supplement your income or just enjoy meeting people and sharing the fruits of your labor, consider participating in the next Farmer’s Market. For more information about how to market your goods in a Farmer’s Market or to express an interest in being a vendor, call the Orange County AgriLife Extension office at 882-7010.