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So how are you supposed to shop at a farmers market?

On Saturday August 10th, the Coppell Farmers Market (CFM) celebrated National Farmers Market Week, a time when farmers markets across the country aim to highlight the significance of local food production and the importance of farmers markets.

As part of our Market’s celebration, we planned market tours with the goal of helping both veteran and new visitors shop the Coppell Farmers Market to the best of their advantage. We’ve adapted the oral account of our Market’s magnificent history and shared shopping tidbits, spoken to tour guests by CFM Committee member Marilyn Horton, into an essay:

“Over twelve farmers, two ranchers, a dairy man and a total of forty vendors call our Market home. With this variety, you can nearly buy every grocery item you need! Every week!

We are a year-round market, which means that the farmers grow for us during winter as well as summer. They know that we attract enough customers to buy the produce that they grow during the cold season of the year as well as during the warmer months. By the same token, we stand by the farmers during their slow production times. We are a seasonal market, meaning that that farmers sell what they’ve harvested from their fields that week. On any given Saturday, one or more farmers may be absent because not enough of their produce ripened that week. Peak months are early spring and summer. The slowest harvest season is August through mid-October because of the heat.

Now for some history. The Coppell Farmers Market is well-established; this is our 17th season!! In 2002, it was a vision of the City of Coppell to have a farmers market in Old Town as a way of focusing interest in that area. They assigned Amanda Vanhoozier, Community Programs Coordinator, to make that vision a reality. Amanda knew three important things that would make the farmers market a success: 1.)You needed volunteers, you needed to involve the community to help with the market. So, she put out the word, called people and assembled a committee that would implement the next truth that she knew. 2.) The farmers needed to be real farmers, local farmers who would sell produce that they had grown themselves. She knew that going downtown to buy produce from dealers there was a false way to run a farmers market. 3.) Food, local food, must remain the focus of our farmers market. This sounds simple, but by keeping our focus on the farmers and producers, we provide a viable business option for them.

From a Texas Department of Agriculture list of farmers, the volunteer committee got on the phones and called local farmer after local farmer. They also put notices in county extension services newsletters. This was a tough process!

They eventually stitched together a couple of farmers and a little group of other artisans to sell at the new, tiny farmers market. This was 2003. Lucido’s was among those first vendors (selling plants) and Lisa is still with us!  Does anyone remember Joy Onstott selling honey?? She sold here until she was into her 80s! Jill Holden with her plants was an early vendor as well.

Who remembers our first location next to the original Coppell Deli on Bethel Road? It was in a dusty, gravel parking lot, but it had lots of personality! Then we moved to a blacktopped area a little south of there that actually worked quite well. Then the city developed Old Town and we were able to make this pavilion our home. We are lucky to work closely with the City of Coppell and receive their support. That is another source of our strength.

We are still guided by a committee of volunteers. It was only before the 2016 market season that we hired a paid market manager who carries out tasks under the guidance of that volunteer committee. We are so lucky to have Amanda Austin, who has also been a small farmer. She understands what our vendors have to deal with just to do what they love most – grow food and make food products.

Our farmers market forms a deep relationship with each vendor. We visit every farm and kitchen to verify that they grew or made the food on their vendor tables. If they didn’t, it should be labeled accordingly.

We review their growing practices, whether sustainable or conventional. Some farmers use conventional methods of fertilizing or treating for pests and disease. This would allow use of chemicals. Other vendors use organic or natural products and farming methods with minimal impact on the environment. We have both kinds of farmers. If this is important to you, ask the farmers their growing methods. Our website also shows this information. 

Just as we have deep relationships with the vendors, you can too! Farmers are glad to talk about production, explain mystery vegetables and will share recipes with you.

So how are you supposed to shop at a farmers market? Stroll the whole market, talk to the vendors, and try something new! Besides our 14 wonderful growers, try products from our artisan food producers. You will find that they are meticulous in sourcing what goes into their products. They choose just the right flour, sweetener, spice or fruit. Many make seasonal items which include fruit or veggies from the market. Returning most glass bottles and jars to the vendors is always welcome!

Meat is another highlight of the farmers market. Rehoboth Ranch and Livestock First Ranch both raise their animals as nature intended… in the field and on nature’s diet. Besides clean-eating, conventional cuts of meat, they offer nose to tail cuts, including lard or a bag of bones. A Coppell couple, Barb and David Magaster, have made an art out of curing bacon. All the meat is sold frozen, so it’s good to bring a cooler for getting it home. “

The Coppell Farmers Market is open Saturdays, 8am-noon and is located at 768 W. Main St. in Old Town Coppell. Plan your visit and see an up-to-date listing of available products at coppellfarmersmarket.org.

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