It doesn’t get any fresher than OC’s Farmers’ Market
Willie Voliber recently moved to Orange from Houston. “It’s a big difference,” he said. “Houston’s fast, nobody cares about nothing.”
Saturday he discovered the Orange Farmers’ Market. The market is held twice a week in Big Lots! parking lot on MacArthur Drive. “I didn’t know Orange had this till just this week,” he said.
Voliber said he read about it in The County Record.
“I love it. It’s got some things that bring me back to older days like preserves, fresh stuff and people growing and stuff, that’s better for the body, like blueberries,” he said. “The people were very friendly.”
Mark Fouts has sold products at the market since its inception seven years ago. It was first held at the Orange Library. Fouts said when the market out grew the library it was moved to Lions Park. It then out grew the park and moved to Big Lots! parking lot. “We’ve been here three years,” he said.
Fouts said Jean Fregia signed him up. “She was selling cookies back then.”
One of Fouts specialties is pickled eggs made from an old family recipe. He also has fresh yard eggs and produce when it’s in season. He also sometimes has jams and jellies. That day, one of his wares was corn cob jelly. He said corn cob jelly has been around for over 150 years.
“A lot of what we have here are old fashion recipes people make and bring here; family secrets, family traits. That’s what makes it so unique,” said Fouts.
Heidi Welch has been selling preserves, jellies and vegetables at the farmers’ market for five years. “You find fresh vegetables and stuff you can’t find in the store. It’s nice to meet people, to talk to them, inquire about recipes and things like that.”
Jim Frasier is a member of the committee that organizes the twice weekly market, “You’re going to spend a little bit less than what they spend at HEB or Krogers or Market Basket, but it is going to be fresh and it’s not going to be setting on the counter moldy looking or whatever. It’s picked, it’s brought out here,” said Frasier. “We don’t allow anybody to ship stuff in from out of Mexico or somewhere; other markets do, but we don’t. Frasier said they do allow some people to bring watermelons from Sugartown, La. because locally, nobody grows them. “If we had somebody locally that grows them we would not allow that.”
It’s all locally grown and fresh.” In fact, he said if people come at the end of the market each day, they usually get a little better deal, because the farmers want to get rid of what they’ve got because they’re going to have more to harvest.
“Right now, tomatoes are at their peak, they’re gonna start going down. Blueberries are just about all gone. There’s gonna be a lot more purple hull peas, cream peas and maybe latter on some beans, mustard greens and turnips and more squash again,” he said. “Right now it’s about the middle of the season, the hot part. We need some rain,” said Frasier Saturday. Mother nature answered that need Monday and Tuesday, this week.
“A lot of people bring jams, jellies and plants. I have blueberry plants I’m going to bring a little later, it’s hot right now for them.”
Frasier said the market committee has a president, a vice president and secretary. “Roy Stanford works with us.” Stanford is one of the Texas AgriLIFE extension agents which is the sponsor of the Farmers’ Market. “He helped us get this set up in this parking lot and the mayor of Pinehurst is really behind us. That helps a lot.”
If someone is interested in selling at the market they need to speak with Frasier Fregia or Billy Peveto. “We’ll tell them what the rules are and if they can abide by them, they can sell here.” There is not charge to sell at the market. Once a year they collect $5 from each vendor for advertising.
Farmer Eddie LaFleur says it’s a good place to move some of your vegetables. “You grow more than you can use, so it’s a good outlet to move some of them. The people seem to really like it,” said LaFleur. They can come up here and get fresh vegetables. LaFleur sells okra, fig preserves and purple hull peas.
Voliber was on a quest for purple okra. “I have never seen that in my life. I was dying to see that today, but the guy didn’t come for some reason. I have never heard of it.” Voliber said he will try again Wednesday afternoon to see if purple okra makes an appearance. “I’m dying to see it.”
Marie Weeks spoke about her and Pat Cropper’s home based business of fresh baked bread, rolls and hamburger buns. During the week, the women travel business to business selling bread.
“We discovered they have this market so we brought our wares here,” said Weeks. “It is a benefit because it consolidates instead of going business to business with our wares, we sit here and the people come to us. That’s the biggest benefit for us because we’re not spending gas except to get here and we love the people.”
The women said baking bread is not a seasonal thing for them, they sell throughout the year. “We really love being here with the people. The market moves our stuff without moving us with gas. These are people we don’t see,” said Weeks.
“I like it because the community gets fresh stuff,” said Cropper. “Fresh vegetables, home grown.”
Karen Murdock of Orange says she shops the farmers market because it is local and fresh. “They’re competitive to the grocery store if not a little less, but you know where it’s coming from and it helps our local economy.” She started shopping at the Farmers’ Market last year. “I try to come every week. It’s more like every other week. I try to come on Wednesdays too, but I don’t get into town. I’m a morning person.”
Fouts said the Farmers’ Market also brings additional shoppers to the stores surrounding the parking lot. “Pinehurst welcomes this. It draws in revenue,” he said.
The official time on Saturdays is 7-10 a.m., but Fouts said many of the vendors get there at 6 a.m. to take advantage of people getting off work from the plants and hospital. Fouts said he does not participate in Farmers’ Market on Wednesdays which runs 3-6 p.m. An updated list of expected produce for the week is published each week in The Record Newspapers. What is actually available on a particular day can vary from the list depending on garden conditions and other factors.
Will Voliber be coming back to Farmers’ Market? “Oh, I have no doubt that I will. When I heard about it, I wasn’t expecting as many people out here as vendors; there’s a lot more. There’s a lot of people that really take pride in this place. I’ll be back and I’ll be spending more money too!” Voliber said he spent almost $50 on his first trip to the market.
“A lot of people could benefit from here,” said Voliber.