WAXAHACHIE

Since its formation in 2003, the Downtown Waxahachie Farmer’s Market has become a place not only for commerce but a community where friendships grow and blossom.

The market also continues to expand its base of vendors while increasing sales and providing a fun experience for the entire family all at the same time.

And, for those interested in soaking in the culture or who want to add a little farm-freshness to the family diet, you'll have to act fast, as the market season is coming to a close. The final day for this year's Waxahachie Downtown Famers Market is set for Oct. 27.

COMMUNITY CONNECTION

Jackie Hartnett has been a market vendor for the past four years, traveling from his home in Cleburne each Saturday. The artisan cheese maker stated the draw for him to be a part of this group is the people he gets the chance to meet.

“We have got a great customer base over here. It is just a good peaceful place to go,” Hartnett said. “With the people, they are all friendly. You don’t have to argue with them. Everybody gets along in the market.”

Hartnett stated he is part of five other markets in the Dallas-Fort Worth Metroplex. The experience he has in Waxahachie provides him more than just sales, but lasting relationships with customers.

“A lot of people in the bigger markets are just in and out. They just come and get what they want and leave," Hartnett said. "They don’t want to stand around and talk and hear the history."

The community-type feel is reflected in the overall numbers recorded by the City of Waxahachie, too. According to data provided by the city show sales totaled $37,198.49 with 14 vendors in 2007. This year, sales as of Sept. 1 are $126,827.18 with 41 vendors.

Market vice president Tommy Jones stated the force behind the growth is a combination of the quality products, and personal service shoppers receive each Saturday, which drives people from other areas to shop in the city.

“I have a lot of customers that come from Dallas, Fort Worth, and Lancaster. Ennis has got a farmer’s market, but I have tons of people that come to Waxahachie from there,” Jones said. “It is very important to me not only to bring good produce to the market but to treat customers in how they want to be treated. It goes a long way. I think that is a lost art in business today.”

Jones estimates that about 2,000 people attend the market each week with around 20 percent being from out of Ellis County.

Market vendor Bubba Finley shared the sense of community at the market keeps him coming back each year. The Maypearl resident has operated the Bubba’s Farm and Ranch Produce booth for the past three years.

“The customers are beyond reproach,” Finley said. “Many of them appreciate the better things of the past that come out of the ground or tomato’s that are vine ripened.”

Finley explained vendors from other communities are drawn to and stay with the Waxahachie market because of how everybody works to build each other up so they can succeed.

According to the Farmers Market Coalition, growers selling locally create 13 full-time jobs per $1 million in revenue earned. Those not selling locally create three. The coalition also shows locally 25 percent of vendors derive their sole source of income from the market.

The USDA Farmers Market Directory reports that there are 8,675 farmers markets in the country.

Market vendor Paul Strange Jr. travels from Glenn Heights to share his passion for coffee and to connect with customers. Strange is the owner of 311 South Coffee, which has a variety of specialty coffees that have a focused and precise roasting profile.

Strange explained what drew him to the city was the community that helped him get his business started.

“I tried the Dallas market first, and it does not have the same feel that Waxahachie does. For instance, it has this enclosed area where people can lease spaces, and it is air-conditioned,” Strange said. “Ninety percent of the people that are going there are going to hang out in these restaurants right next to the farmers market, but it is not actually the farmer’s stand. It is also hard to keep going there consistently because you are stuck on a rotating schedule. Waxahachie was very open in helping me out.”

Strange stated in the bigger-city settings a vendor can feel like a number, but in Waxahachie, a person feels like he or she is a part of the farmers market community.

FUN AT THE MARKET

The market — with the help of the Ellis County Master Gardeners — works each week to connect with visitors through fun activities where people can learn about nature. These activities are linked with a weekly theme, which has included buzzing about bees, decked out for the fall, and totally tomatoes.

Master Gardener Arlene Hamilton stated communities across the country have farmers markets but by adding a layer of learning and fun helps the Waxahachie market to stand out from the rest.

“The second Saturday is always kids' crafts so we bring in somebody who will do a project with the kids. Hopefully, that will attract younger families with their kids or older adults who will bring their grandchild,” Hamilton said. “In October, we are going to have a farm animal petting zoo at the market. We a have a local person that has animals which are going to bring them down to the market.”

Hamilton stated October will also focus on planting a fall and winter garden. Master Gardeners will be on site to answer questions and talk about planting during these seasons.

One of the markets big draws each year is the annual Grill Fest. Freshly grilled produce is offered up free to patrons. Tips on healthy eating and grilling recipes are served up as well.

She added these events help to connect people with the market and keep them engaged with what is going on each week.

For more information about the market, search Facebook for Downtown Waxahachie Farmer’s Market. The market is open from 8 a.m. – 1 p.m. each Saturday through Oct. 27. It is located at 410 S. Rogers Street in downtown Waxahachie across from city hall.