The 2012 America’s Favorite Farmers Markets contest registered more than 47,000 votes in support of local farmers markets across the nation and featured 1,700+ participating farmers markets. The Sulphur Springs Texas Farmers Market won in the ‘midsize’ category of markets and registered 3,061 out of 140,503 votes cast in the category.
“The 2012 Farmers Market’s success was an accumulation of having a solid starting point, the renovated downtown district, and partnerships,” stated Shane Shepard, Community Development Director. The market enjoyed pre-planning assistance from students from Texas A&M – Commerce lead by Joe Whinery and Sulphur Springs native Crysel Garcia. Shepard explains, “Crysel was instrumental in introducing the market to a very important demographic of our community – this has really helped our success.” KK McKenzie designed the 2012 market from social activities to modern promotional practices. “We wanted to be THE premier market in East Texas,” explained Shepard. “With KK’s advisement, we were successful.”
One of the market’s niches is the vast array of music every Saturday night. Sponsors that made this possible include Sulphur Springs Dodge, City National Bank, and Alliance Bank.
“We are most thankful for the vendors who had faith in the market and endured the summer heat. And without local community supporting the market by coming out and enjoying themselves, the market would have been impossible – the market belongs to the citizens of Sulphur Springs,” explained Shepard.
“The Market”, as it is called, is different from many markets around the State. It is the only market with weekly music and the only market that is open during the evening. “We felt the evening market would make it more vendor friendly. They could sell their goods at other local markets during the morning and then have a second market during the evening,” says Shepard. Vendors from other communities were encouraged to participate in their local morning market as well as the one in Sulphur Springs. Shepard said, “As a region and in tough economic times, we are all in this together – being a friendly neighbor with a positive and welcoming attitude makes all the difference.”
Sulphur Springs was in the same category with some stiff competition including Richmond, Virginia; Winnsboro, Texas; and McKinney, Texas. Shepard explained that winning in this category is a testament to the quality the local market has accomplished. “These other three markets have great quality – ours model brought more interest in the contest. It was an honor to be listed in the top 20 list with them and even a greater honor to win the category,” said Shepard. Both Richmond and McKinney have more than 100,000 residents compared to the Sulphur Springs population of 15,000. Shepard said, “I think the results of the contest were a surprise to some of the larger communities.”
Texas faired very well. Four of the top five mid-sized markets were Texas communities: 1st place – Sulphur Springs; 3rd Place – McKinney; 4th Place – Grand Prairie; and 5th place – Nacogdoches. This is the first time in a Texas community has won the contest. Reports have indicated the “fixins” were a major draw for the market, including tamales, pickles, BBQ, hotdogs and funnel cakes. “It is almost like a festival every Saturday for half a year downtown”, said Shane.
Sulphur Springs Texas Farmers Market will receive shipment of No Farms No Food® tote bags, and will also be featured in the media, including Epicurious.com and the Food Networks’s FN Dish. The totebags will be distributed at an event open to the press and public on a date and time to be determined later at the farmers market on the square. Visit www.sulphurspringsfarmersmarket.com for more information. To date, the Community Development Office has tracked the announcing press release, mentioning Sulphur Springs. So far, they include various Metroplex press outlets, some major financial and agricultural websites, Long Island, New York, and San Francisco, California. “The marketing value for the community in winning the competition is nearly incalculable,” said Shepard whose master’s degree in business has an emphasis on marketing.
Along with the Sulphur Springs Texas Farmers Market, Arlington Farmers Market in Washington took home the small market prize, Winter Garden Farmers Market in Florida the medium, and Fayetteville Farmers Market in Arkansas the large category. Farmers markets represent one of the great ways that consumers can support their local farmers, farmland, communities, and regional economies.
The Community Development office also announced another partnership in regards to the Farmers Market. Through a grant with University of Texas Health Science Center at Tyler, the market will display more downtown banners and launch a billboard on Interstate 30 in 2013. Another grant is pending with the USDA that would give the City $85,000 total over a period of two years to hire a dedicated market manager, launch educational programs for local farmers, and provide funds for marketing.
Shepard concluded, “We would like to thank everyone who supported the farmers market and voted in the America’s Farmland Trust competition. This reflects the love of community we all have.”
The Sulphur Springs market will continue downtown through October 20th each Saturday starting at 6pm. Vendors are welcome to setup as early as 2pm. Vendors permitted include producers, hand crafted goods, local art, prepared foods and local non-profits seeking awareness to raising funds. There is an emphasis on agricultural goods. “We REALLY need more agricultural involvement,” said Shane.
Registration is free and there are no reserved locations. The Community Development Office explained that the market applied many of the principles City is practicing for businesses – develop a market through interesting activities, make entry easy and as low of a cost as reasonably possible, and simplify the processes emphasizing efficiency. “The vendors are entrepreneurs – and there is a chance that some of them may eventually expand into a storefront in town some day,” Shepard cited. The motto at Community Development is Great People. Great Parks. Business Friendly. If you are interested in the market and have questions, please call 903.885.7541.