PEAS Farm and Pure Texas Honey among market’s longest-standing vendors

It’s been seven years since Chris Kohnke brought his Pure Texas Honey products to the Westchase District Farmers Market and he still gets asked: where does your honey come from? It’s a question that gives Kohnke’s beekeeping expertise an opportunity to shine.

“Is this honey raw,” is another common question asked of Kohnke. “Most people don’t know the definition of raw honey,” said Kohnke. “Raw honey has not been heated. Any honey heated above 130 degrees has been heat pasteurized by the Texas Beekeepers’ standards.” He adds that pure honey has not had anything added to it, but pollen must be present for it to be real honey.

Sweet nothings: There’s nothing sweeter to Chris Kohnke than telling a customer about bees and how honey’s made.

Pure Texas Honey and PEAS Farm anchor mission

Farmers market manager John Carey happily reminds vendors about the market’s mission which remains unchanged since 2013. It’s a place where you can source food to eat, learn and thrive. Kohnke and Patricia d’Agrella say that Carey was instrumental to them joining the market on day one.

A farmer and an educator: Patricia d’Agrella gives a lesson in pickle making and enjoys teaching customers about her work especially youth who come to the market.

Whether it’s helping customers understand where their products come from or laying out the freshest produce, the spirit of the market has remained unchanged after seven years, says d’Agrella who owns and operates three farms under the PEAS Farm name. PEAS Farm is considered the market’s anchor vendor.

“Vendors have come and gone, but our focus is bringing quality products in a friendly and inviting atmosphere. We do what we can to help the market grow and keep people curious about us,” said d’Agrella. “Our customers know we will be there offering quality food at a reasonable price and consistent experience.” A fun activity for d’Agrella is sharing recipes  and farming tips with customers.

Bringing local and people together

Off the vine: From Conroe to market, PEAS Farm has delivered  fresh, local produce every week since 2013.

Pure Texas Honey sources hive sites in Katy and Brenham while PEAS Farm’s weekly trek is from Conroe. PEAS Farm also makes honey which d’Agrella says is not as difficult as growing vegetables. “The bees are the easiest. They just go to work. We keep an eye on them all year, but do most of our harvesting from April to July.”

Kohnke’s regulars are what make his weekly participation worthwhile. “I’m proud when they return because they trust my sources and they are pleased with the consistency,” said Kohnke. Meeting new people and interactions with vendors are also a plus. “It’s fun to hear previous life stories and seeing passionate small batch entrepreneurs succeed.”

Keeping the supply chain going

Kohnke and d’Agrella agree that farmer market customers are interested in what happens to their products before they reach the market. Before honey is bottled, it’s taken off frames, run through a strainer and put in buckets for bottling all year. For farming, d’Agrella says growing organically is labor intensive but also a labor of love. “With the produce, we plant, water, weed, pick, and pack,” said d’Agrella. “With eggs, we take care of our birds. We gather eggs twice a day, wash and put them in our cooler.” It’s a family effort for d’Agrella. Daughter Ashley and her husband, Steven, along with their kids do most of the work. Ashley sets up the market tents and vegetable displays in advance of the market opening and then handles sales. PEAS Farm will even fill pre-orders before crowds come in.

Family teamwork: D’Argella’s daughter, Ashley, and granddaughter, Paige, are a regular pair helping serve customers.

The d’Agrella family starts planning its products a year in advance. “Knowing our market enables us to determine how much to plant,” says d’Agrella. “We also have high tunnels (similar to a greenhouse) that allow us to grow many items year-round. We are already getting ready for spring and summer next year.” D’Agrella cautions, though, that the best laid plans are always at the mercy of weather.

As their consistent presence at the farmers market seven straight years illustrates, PEAS Farm and Pure Texas Honey are passionate about what they do. “We are constantly looking for new varieties and ways to make our farm better. We are planning to start a blog to bring recipes and gardening tips to our customers,” said d’Agrella.

Carey said PEAS Farm and Pure Texas Honey were the perfect fit from the start. “Both have made our market grow and become one of the most successful in Houston. I know they and our vendors will make us even stronger over the next seven years,” said Carey.