Downtown Sulphur Springs will have a deliciously home-grown feel to it this Saturday with the opening of a weekly, expanded Farmers Market on Main Street.
"It won't be a big farmers market, but it will be well-rounded," said Sulphur Springs City Manager Marc Maxwell, who spearheaded the development of the marketplace event as part of revitalizing downtown.
The market will operate this Saturday and every Saturday afterward, weather permitting, from 8 a.m. to 2 p.m.
The menu of fresh foods reads like a mini Central Market.
"We've got about 14 spaces rented out," Maxwell said. "We've got a couple of produce vendors, a couple of dairy. We're going to have some cheese and some yogurt and some milk. We've got grass-fed, USDA processed beef. We've got eggs, baked goods, a couple of vendors with artisan breads.
"You can get a few groceries for the week."
The launch of the farmers market is getting a jump start this weekend, as the city is also sponsoring a flea market downtown. Previous flea markets, held in the spring and fall and sponsored by the Downtown Business Alliance, brought out more than 100 vendors and exhibitors.
A farmers market is hardly new to Northeast Texas — cities like Greenville and Paris, for example, have pavilions and property set aside for producers to set up stalls to hawk their wares.
And Sulphur Springs itself has long had a farmers market, whether at the location near Reservoir and Main streets beside the Coleman Lake dam or in parking lots of various businesses.
But this is different — this farmers market is a planned, managed affair.
"We've been cooking this up for quite awhile, but it became very evident early in the downtown planning process that revitalizing downtown is as much about the management of the spaces as it is about the physical i improvement — perhaps more — so we really started focusing on it," Maxwell explained. " This will be a regular event, and it will draw traffic downtown. People can pick up some produce and maybe stop in and buy a handbag or a meal or something else."
One of the things that makes a market successful, Maxwell explained, is having lots of little things going on at the market, so "we're working on all the little things."
"I really believe the management of the market itself is as important as where you have it," he said. "We're not just going to have some booths and some folks there selling produce and whatnot. We're also going to have some cooking demonstrations, or health screenings. Maybe we'll be able to give blood, or we'll be able to recycle.
"Maybe you can drop your dog off and have it shampooed and shorn while you're there. Maybe you can drop off your knives and have them sharpened while you shop. Maybe you'll show up for the recipe exchange or peach cobbler contest. The more little reasons to be there, the more successful the market becomes."
Originally, plans called for the farmers market to be held in the parking lot on the south side of Main Street, but the vendors will instead be on Main Street, setting up their booths and stalls in the parallel parking spaces. The important thing, Maxwell said, is that it be outdoors, something he learned at a Project for Public Spaces conference on public markets in New York last year.
"There were about 20, 25 people there, but they were from everywhere — Hong Kong, Australia, Italy, Canada, all over the place," he said. "I learned a lot from the presenters, and we went to several markets, but I learned as much from the market managers that came from around the world."
One thing he learned was the impact of having the market operate al fresco.
"A lot of farmers markets are indoors, in a building, and there's an outdoor component," Maxwell explained. "The outdoor component, they said, is the more important one. That's the one with the visual interest. That's the one people think of when they think of a farmers market. That's where they go connect with the actual grower. In the markets where they have an indoor and outdoor component, the outdoor is only on certain days. They say those days are a lot better sales for the folks inside."
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