Almost 15 years ago, Ashley Barker came home from her accounting job to find a large patch of her yard had been tilled. Her father, who often watched her house while she was gone, decided she needed a garden. A few years later, Ashley quit her job to begin working the land full-time, and PEAS farm was born.
What began with Ashley’s parents is now run by her and husband Steven, along with lots of help from their four children. The youngest, now 14, has been coming along to Farmers Markets since she was an infant. Ashley would put her in the baby carrier and rock her with her foot under the table while assisting customers.
Growing up on the farm
For all four children (now 20, 18, 17, and 14) farming has been their life growing up. Ashley has pictures of her daughter in a ballet tutu digging potatoes. She explained that throughout the years she has learned to put each kid on harvesting produce they don’t like, otherwise none of it makes it to market to sell. Her children have a strong work ethic and get confused by kids who sleep in on Saturdays. They help manage the vendor tent, interact with customers, and have always been ahead of their peers in math.
As a family affair, farming provides the opportunity to slow down and be present. Rather than constantly scrolling on screens, they work the land and talk about life. Ashley loves the freedom that farming provides to be with family.
Through the years
PEAS farm has been a valued vendor at the Westchase District Farmers Market since its inception almost 10 years ago. At first, they grew and sold items they liked to eat. However, as time went on, they expanded their offerings. In addition to produce staples, you’ll also find green and red kale, new types of spinach, and new variations of lettuce. Ashley enjoys looking through seed catalogs until something makes her say “Oooh, that’s cool! Let’s try to grow that!” Currently, their biggest hits are pickling cucumbers, yellow squash, and their plump, juicy tomatoes. They also sell honey, eggs, pickles, salsa, goat cheese, lip balm and more. One customer who was filling his shopping bag at the table claimed, “I come here every week. PEAS farm has some of the freshest produce in all of Houston.”
Over the last decade, Ashley has seen the Westchase District Farmers Market change drastically. Various vendors have come and gone. In recent months, as many people who were doing the market as a side job have headed back into the office, the number of vendors has shrunk. But Ashley has seen it start to pick up again and enjoys spreading the word to other vendors that this is one of the best places to sell.
When asked her favorite thing about being part of the Westchase District Farmers Market, Ashley said hands-down it is her customers. Rain or shine they come to see her every week. Ashley estimated that at least 80% of her customers are regulars. This has allowed Ashley to build meaningful relationships as well. She knows what her regulars typically buy, and if she is running low, she will often set it aside until they arrive.
Looking toward the future
Ashley is excited when looking toward the future. The Westchase District Farmers Market continues to grow and so does PEAS farm. They just planted purple snow peas for the first time and picked the first few on Monday. In addition, strawberry season is right around the corner and watermelon, cantaloupe, and okra will soon be ready too. Most of all, Ashley is looking forward to meeting you, greeting you with a smile, and selling you some of the freshest produce in all of Houston.