Since Westchase District launched its weekly farmers market in 2013, Texas has seen steady growth in the number of certified farmers markets offering customers fresh, local products. Added together, these relatively tiny markets produce some huge windfalls for their vendors – about $23.7 million in reported annual profits.
According to Scott Sroufe with the Texas Department of Agriculture, the department’s Certified Farmers Market Program has certified 49 markets or market associations operating 97 separate markets throughout the state this year. “Some are operated by a food bank or a cooperative of area growers,” he said. “Those market associations sometimes have more than one location for markets or host markets during multiple days throughout the week.”
With an economic impact of $240,000 in reported revenues in 2018, the Westchase District Farmers Market is the highest-grossing, single-day, weekday certified farmers market in Greater Houston, Sroufe said. “Statewide, Westchase is the fifth highest-grossing single-day market – that includes both weekday and weekend markets,” he added. “And the market is Texas’ tenth highest-grossing farmers market overall.”
Whichever number you choose to focus on, each one underscores that over the past six years, the Westchase District Farmers Market has become a big deal. “Our market generates nearly a quarter of a million dollars for local vendors,” said Sherry Fox, Westchase District’s vice president of communications. “That’s an economic development success story we want to shout from the rooftops.”
When researching farmers markets years ago, Fox said she repeatedly noticed three factors contributing to a market’s success or failure: location, vendor mix and management. “We’re located on Westheimer Road, one of the most-travelled roadways in Texas, and we’ve grown to regularly feature about 30 vendors offering a variety of products,” she said. “But the real Miracle-Gro for us has been the excellent work of John Carey, our market manager. He relates to, and empathizes with, our vendors and has earned their respect. He understands how to welcome and nurture new vendors and encourage their success.”
Holiday shopping underway
The market always experiences a boost in sales during the holidays. “Whether you’re shopping for your holiday meal or holiday gifts, we have some excellent selections at the farmers market,” said Carey. “You can pick up farm-raised meat from Katerra Exotics and all the vegetables for the sides are available from PEAS Farm. Everyone wants tamales at Christmas and we have that covered too, thanks to Tamales Mamá Belen.”
Rio Grande Organics has pecans for all your holiday baking. Tasty wines for your Christmas meal or for gifts are available at the Houston Winery booth. For gift giving, we have one-of-a-kind handcrafted jewelry (Earth Friendly Designs), essential oils and lotions (Float-A-Way) and salt scrubs (Dr. Lucy’s Optimum Wellness Club).
For those who like giving edible gifts, consider Texas olive oils and balsamic vinegar (Texas Olive Ranch) or homemade fresh fruit and pepper jellies (ShoSho’s Kitchen).
Sights, sounds and smells of the season
Beyond the financial impact to Houston’s economy, Fox said the Westchase District Farmers Market has grown to become a public gathering space in West Houston for residents and workers to mingle with vendors and be exposed to new foods and products they might not otherwise have discovered. “The market provides an opportunity for customers to connect with the local farmers and artisans who actually grow the food and make products by hand,” she said. “Those connections are what help sew Westchase District into a tight-knit community, during the holidays and all year long.”