Wichita Falls Farmers Market: The Talk of The Town.
Posted On: July 24, 2017
Wichita Falls is a North Texas town sitting at just over 100,000. Host of the Hotter’n Hell Hundred, one of the oldest and largest cycling events in the nation, it is also home to Sheppard Air Force Base and a large liberal arts university.
“The SAFB conducts the Euro-NATO Joint Jet Pilot Training (ENJJPT) program which produces combat pilots for the USAF and NATO. This brings in lots of different nationalities to the city. I have talked to people at the Market from Europe and they would tell me about the markets they would frequent there,” says Jeanette Charos, Marketing Director. “Midwestern State University also has a large Caribbean population. For a town of our size, it is surprising how culturally diverse Wichita Falls is!”
The Wichita Falls Farmers Market, held on Tuesdays, Thursdays, and Saturdays, is bringing everyone together while revitalizing downtown at its Historic Depot Square location. Saturday markets have even outgrown the facility, causing a half block shut down around the market to accommodate more vendors and food trucks.
“On a Saturday morning you can see hundreds of people meandering through downtown after visiting the market. The market is helping us build a happier and healthier community,” says Jeanette.
And this season the market is offering some new delights. To go alongside the market weekdays’ 8 vendors lineup, there are free educational kids’ programs on Tuesdays and adult programs on Thursdays. Also in planning stages is a farm to dinner table, a market collaboration with a local chef and Vernon College Culinary Academy. The USDA grant awarded to the Red River Valley Food Expansion project is another local victory that aims to bolster local foods production and consumption. Good things are happening In Wichita Falls. Check them out via our Instagram to follow along with this North Texas town.
Farmers Market Coalition: Give us a little bit of history about your market.
Jeanette Charos: The City of Wichita Falls owns the property and were managers of the market until 2012 when Downtown Wichita Falls Development took over management. DWFD is a 501(c)3 non-profit committed to help downtown grow and make it a place our community is proud of. Currently there are two staff that help split duties of managing the market. When we have events we all come together to pull it off, this includes the vendors/ farmers, staff, and volunteers.
The market is an excellent incubator for small businesses, this year one of our vendors, Odd Duck Coffee, was able to purchase a store front and will now be roasting his coffee in his own store downtown! Odd Duck Coffee was just a hobby of Ted Klopf’s but after much success at the market he decided to continue the growth of his business. He started out with a 10×10 booth selling beans and cups of coffee at the market, to getting his own trailer to sell his coffee at events, to now owning his own storefront. Tracy McIntyre creates soaps, lotions, and lip balms from her goat’s milk. Her product is amazing and has gained many followers, she now sells her soaps in many of the stores around town. We also have many artists that love being a part of the market. Ben the Poet, sets up a small table with his type writer and will type out poems for shoppers. Having a healthy mix of produce and artists give the market a unique vibe. It creates a space that people can enjoy on many levels and a shopping experience that you want to talk about to others.
FMC: Describe your market.
JC: The market is set in the heart of downtown Wichita Falls, in the Depot Square to be more specific. Having the market downtown has added flavor to this historical neighborhood and added excitement to the streets. Saturdays at the market in the summer months is something to experience. Sometimes you have to park a couple blocks away to get to the market but it creates that sense of community when you see everyone walking around downtown. In 2015, Downtown Wichita Falls Development worked with the city to get some much needed renovations at the market. A roof was added to the center section and garage doors along the sides were added. The market is now able to be fully enclosed and we are now open year round. The market has also become a hot spot for events, our non-profit as well as several others now utilize the area for festivals and fundraisers. It has also become a favorite with brides. We have had showers, rehearsals, and weddings at the market. It is the perfect combination of rustic meets urban.
FMC: How do you generate neighborhood excitement for your market?
JC: In the summer season there are “Special Saturdays”, these days highlight a certain fruit or produce. Such as, on Blackberry Day you will find samples of blackberry cobbler, smoothies, or a blackberry salad. The farmers will prepare the dishes and have plenty of the highlighted produce for sale so shoppers can go home and create the dishes. We also combine live music and kids’ activities to make it a day that families can enjoy spending downtown. We also have a chefs come out and do demos, they hand out recipe cards and samples of their creations and some weekends the Master Gardners will come out and show what is best to plant for our area of Texas.
FMC: How do you promote your market?
JC: Social media had been a large platform for our market but we continue our traditional advertising; TV/ radio commercials, billboards, fliers, and print ads. One of our most successful forms of promotion will always be word of mouth. As the market continues to grow more vendors are advertising themselves to friends and family and on their social media. I believe social media is a great way to get information out about the market because you can constantly update your followers about who and what will be at the market without the huge production expenses of revising ads. The staff and a few long time vendors are admin on our Facebook page so we will always have someone who is at the market who can do updates. We encourage lots of pictures! People love seeing the variety of what’s offered and fruits and vegetables are always a colorful sight!
FMC: What are some of your market’s challenges and successes?
JC: Only having two people on staff is challenging, managing the market is just a small part of what we do. We having a great community that will step in to volunteer when we need them and the vendors are amazing. A lot are like family, whenever we are unable to be at the market they jump in with helping new vendors set up, to social media posts. The vendors get along so well and always willing to help us and each other out!
FMC: Who does the market serve?
JC: The market’s growth the past couple years has been a bit surprising to us. Wichita Falls is a very caring and grass roots community that has really come out and supported our local market. Having the market in downtown we have a wonderful mix of shoppers, we have the business professionals that stop by to pick up some produce on their lunch break, young families that enjoy knowing where their food comes from and we have the underserved community that walks to the market and doesn’t have a grocery store within 10 miles of them.
FMC: What significance does the market have in your town and how does it show?
JC: The market has been key to downtown development. Wichita Falls has been working on bringing more life to the downtown area and the market adds that! Not only has it helped the perception of downtown coming back- it has helped the economy. Our community sees the value of shopping local and supporting our local farmers. Also, seeing these vendors grow to store owners and choose to keep their businesses downtown is a great sign that we are doing our job well and people truly believe downtown is the heart of Wichita Falls.