By Jordan Hearne
Fresh produce, dairy and meat from local vendors will converge at the grand opening of the Waco Downtown Farmers Market on Saturday.
Located at 400 South University Parks Drive downtown next to an old fire tower, the Waco Downtown Farmers Market will be open from 9 a.m. to 1 p.m. every Saturday and serve as a central location for local fare.
Bethel Erickson-Bruce, vice president of the Downtown Farmers Market board, said that all of the vendors come from within 150 miles of Waco and offer a wide variety of products.
“The market will provide a number of different enterprises with fresh chicken and baked goods, and World Hunger Relief Inc. will have produce,” Erickson-Bruce said. “There will be three different cheese vendors, honey from Round Rock Honey in Austin and the Urban Garden Coalition will have a booth where they can actually sell crops from home and community gardens.”
A full list of vendors can be found at the Waco Downtown Farmers Market website at the market website.
The planning and establishment of the downtown market was a group effort started about six months ago. Terry Vanderpool, president of the Downtown Farmers Market board, said people approached him about starting a downtown farmers market in Waco based on Vanderpool’s farming background and involvement in the downtown Austin farmers market. He said that after talking with members of the Greater Waco Chamber of Commerce and Waco City Council, an initial interest meeting gave the planners a place to begin.
“We put together a team of people interested and excited about a farmers market in Waco, picked a date so that we had a goal of when to get the market started, and just started working from there, collecting vendors,” Vanderpool said.
Chris McGowan, director of urban development at the Greater Waco Chamber of Commerce, said the Waco Downtown Farmers Market has been an ongoing project for years at the request of Waco residents, but all previous efforts have fallen through during planning.
“There are kind of four components involved in putting together a farmers market: you have to have people to sell something, you must have someone to operate it, you have to have cooperation and you have to have a place to sell everything,” McGowan said. “That’s what’s different this time, the cooperation and coordination. This time, everything is just coming together.”
The types of products people can expect to see this Saturday include root vegetables and greens, such as potatoes, swiss chard and kale, that are currently in season, and locally raised and prepared chicken, beef and pork.
Erickson-Bruce said that even though currently the market can only accept cash, the board is looking into credit cards and possibly BearBucks in the future.
She said most of the produce is not certified as organic because the process to attain that certification is too costly for some vendors, but overall the use of any hormones on products is discouraged by the market and that each vendor can give more information on their individual production methods.
McGowan said the market is expected to bring more traffic to downtown Waco and hopefully help the economy as people visiting the market notice other businesses downtown. In regards to how the market supports local farmers, Vanderpool, a farmer himself, emphasized that money spent at the Waco Downtown Farmers Market will go directly into the Waco economy versus stockholders and corporations.
“Instead of buying garlic from California, why not buy it from McLennan County?” Vanderpool said. “Why not buy chicken and pork raised a few miles from here, rather than in South America?”