The Coppell Farmers Market strives to provide a farm direct market for farmers, growers, and producers. The vendor approval committee has a criterion for the selection of vendors favoring sustainable farming/ranching, direct from farm sales, farm visitation access, and face-to-face selling by producers. Customers are encouraged to get to know the vendors and ask questions about sustainable practices, sources, and processes.
Stacy and her husband, Jerry, have been farming together for over 25 years. Actually, Jerry has farmed his whole life, but Stacy joined in when they got married. She figures that she likes farming because both sets of grandparents had big gardens. She cans and makes preserves of her produce. The Finleys live in Santo, TX, around 85 miles west of Coppell, with their two, busy school-aged daughters. They live on about 15 acres but lease other land to farm on, including a peach orchard. A hard worker and open to new things, Stacy now enjoys raising chickens to sell farm fresh eggs at the market. Stacy uses conventional farming methods, but fertilizers and pesticides are applied only as needed, not by calendar.
Keith has it backwards – he retired early and went back to work late. But this has allowed his whole family to work together, his kids and friends work the fields and run farm stands, which helped to finance their college educations. They learned farming, responsibility and sound business practices along the way. Keith always enjoyed gardening as something to do during the offseason of running a chain of sporting goods stores with his wife, Kassandra. He had no idea that after he sold the business, his two acre garden would grow to 25-30 acres of producing land. The Copp farm is in Ponder, about 35 miles north of Coppell. D Bar Ranch uses conventional farming methods.
Acting as advisor to son and daughter-in-law Jay and Laurie Waligora, Pat instigated the establishment of Hiram Farms near Wills Point. They set out to grow organic gourmet greens, none of which are lettuce. The greens are intended to be mixed with lettuce or eaten as is. Three screened-in greenhouses allow them to maintain a more constant temperature, keep the bugs out and facilitate organic growing practices. They also make other products like pesto, spreads and sauerkraut. Retired from the medical field, gardening has always been a part of Pat’s life, along with keeping chickens and other animals. Pat finds it important to be close to her food source and eat organically, feeling that most people are too far removed from their food roots. Hiram Farms uses organic (not certified) growing practices.
Admitting that they are both technical geeks, Steve and Cat wanted to grow their own produce, first because of health reasons and second, to start a sideline business that could eventually become full time. They use hydroponic methods to grow lettuces, greens and herbs. Hydroponics is the cultivation of plants in nutrient solution rather than in soil. According to the Elliotts, plants don't have to break down the nutrients before use because the nutrients are readily available to them. Roots hit the nutrients directly as opposed to slow take up through the soil. Plants take up exactly what they need and quickly grow quite large in this stress-free environment. The Elliotts still have day jobs, but look forward to the time when hydroponics and in-ground farming fill their days.
Mike has grown fruit trees for 15 years, but now that he is retired from Lucent Technologies (formerly AT&T), he takes pleasure in devoting more time to his hobby. On his 1.5 acres in Forney, he grows pears, plums, apricots, peaches, apples, grapes and some vegetables. He and his wife, Pat, enjoy square dancing several times a month, in their club and around the Metroplex. It's a good thing for us that the market is in the morning and not during dance time!
Spending time in California introduced the Hutchins to the value of healthy eating. So after the Naval Academy and serving on destroyers, Robert bought 300 acres near his hometown of Greenville to raise healthy food for his family while he worked in the defense industry. Eventually, the mission of supplying pastured pork, beef, chicken and lamb to his family grew to a full-time venture. Since the 1980s, he has perfected his methods of raising natural, chemical-free, antibiotic-free animals, adjusting to the Texas heat and working to change the traditional Texas agricultural environment. The help of his wife, Nancy, and their children still at home is essential to the operation of the ranch. Katherine and Ruthie are capably in charge of the Coppell sales.
Taylor is well-traveled. He grew up in southern New Mexico, but has spent real time in Panama, Ecuador and Mexico. Besides that, he worked on an Israeli kibbutz for six months. His uncle had a small ranching business in Denison, so Taylor eventually moved to Texas to help with the business and see if that’s what suited him. It did, so he now has his own spread in Denison where he raisesanimals in their natural environments. Taylor offers natural, grass fed and finished beef, pastured pork, chicken and eggs raised without hormones or antibiotics.
From the time he was a kid, Chris wanted to farm. He planted an organic garden in the ‘70s, before organic was a movement. Now with a PhD in Computer Science and 23 years of teaching experience at California Polytechnic State University, Chris and family returned to Texas in 2000 with the plan of building their own house (using insulated concrete forms) and working the land. He now teaches the fall quarter at Cal Poly and farms winter through summer in Montague County, cultivating 4 of his 115 acres near Forestburg. Millie, Chris’ wife, also earned a PhD in Computer Science and taught at Cal Poly until it was time to home school their 4 children, the first of which is heading off to college as a National Merit Finalist. Chris follows all the growing rules of the National Organic Program (not certified).
Sammy’s land has been in the family since 1889, but he and Robby named it Dead End Farm because when you get to their house, you have to turn around. Over the years, Sammy’s family added to the original 200 acres in Montague County so this fourth generation farmer, along with his sister, now owns 850 contiguous acres. His family used to grow feed crops, but in 1985 he happily switched to produce farming. Now the Mitchells rotate crops on about 17 acres, actually working 3 – 4 acres at a time, plus planting fields for the deer and other critters, keeping them away from market crops. The Mitchells use no hired help, but their kids and grand-kids regularly lend a hand on the farm and at the markets. Grandchildren Mitchell and Lacey have been going to markets since they were in bouncers, and that makes them sixth generation farmers! The Mitchells use conventional farming methods.
David Fisher’s family has farmed in Van Zandt County for over 100 years. After many years and other careers away from the area, David is back and loving it. His father, who started farming at age 17 and never stopped, is still good for advice. Early on, David’s singing, songwriting and film desires led him to Los Angeles where he eventually worked in animation and post-production, including a stint with Fox. He has truly traveled the world, living for almost 11 years in Bangkok, Thailand. There, he married his wife, Ya, and at age 43, started a family, now with 4 kids. Back in Fruitvale, TX, he has 10 acres under plow with more planned soon. David uses a combination of sustainable and conventional farming methods.
Jack’s the dad, Megan’s the daughter and they’re a real team. Motivated by the desire to produce good, high quality produce and realizing the local demand, they come to this farming venture from science backgrounds. Jack is a petroleum engineer who, along with his wife, Sarah, and 3 children, lived internationally for about 45 years. Megan is a biologist who ran a research lab. Her husband, Allen, plays week-end farmer. Up to 5 acres of their McKinney farm is used for crops with the rest in pasture. The fields terrace down a hill with a gorgeous view of Honey Creek at the bottom, making for a lovely distraction. Irrigation comes from a pond they built earlier. The whole family cooks, so heirloom varieties and organic growing techniques (not certified) inspire their farming.
In 2000, Ken and his wife, Laura Jo, started Larken Farms as a hobby. They wanted to see if they had a green thumb for growing peaches. What started as a hobby turned into a full time orchard! They now have over 7,000 trees which also include plum and pear, as well as blackberry bushes. They grow veggies in their garden as well. Larken Farms uses organic growing methods (not certified).
Paul used to own a tropical plant store, then he maintained plants in buildings using alternative sprays, not chemicals. 30 years ago he started a CSA (Community Supported Agriculture) from his farm in Celeste. A CSA was a pretty rare thing in Texas at the time, but he had seen them in practice near his sister in Massachusetts. Lynn is a 4th generation farmer, having grown up on a dairy farm near Cleburne. He and Lynn now grow produce and raise 100% grass-fed lambs and free range chickens (therefore, eggs) guarded by a Great Pyrenees dog. The lucky chickens get to eat the spent vegetables from the garden. Good Earth Organic Farm has attained the designation of Certified Organic.
It was probably destined that Susan and Bill Cross own and manage pecan orchards. In the 1920s both their grandfathers owned pecan orchards in Greenville, at opposite ends of the Sabine River branch there. They were competitors, actually, each with orchards in the river bottom allowing the trees to send out long tap roots and thus withstand droughts. Susan ogled after Bill way back in the second grade, they started dating in junior high, then married after graduating from East Texas State University (Texas A&M Commerce now) where both were ag majors. Over 30 years ago, they grafted 110 acres of pecan trees, the very trees bearing the pecans she’s selling now.