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July 8, 2014

To market, to market ... keeping it local

GREENVILLE — Sharleen Allen and Joy Chennault not only want Hunt County residents to shop local, but also want to promote healthy eating and living habits.

The way the two promote their agenda is through operating the Greenville Farmers Market.

“First and foremost we want it to be a farmers’ market,” Chennault said, adding customers who come to the market, open Saturdays from 9 a.m. to 12 noon in downtown Greenville, can ask the farmers what growing practices they used, where they grew and how best to prepare their produce. “We are certainly meeting the desires of the local customers.”

With more Texans being more health conscience about what they eat, Allen said it is refreshing to be able to know her produce comes from locally-run-and-operated farms.

“We want to support local people and provide to local people,” she said.

Now in the fourth year after reopening the market, the market has grown in customers and vendors every year. And with more than 200 customers shopping at the most recent market, Allen said they are hitting their stride as a market.

“This is our best year,” she said. “This is definitely our breakout year.”

The idea to reopen the market began when the two kept running into each other at various farmers’ markets and at the church they both attend. The two discussed how they would operate one in Greenville.

“Both of us come from areas where farmers’ markets were plentiful,” she said.

Things began a little slow for the first year, according to the two.

“The first year was a big struggle because we had a lot of backyard vendors who struggled having enough produce to sell,” she said, adding 2011 was one of the driest and hottest summers in recent years, which did not help the farmers.

Allen is a stay-at-home mom but said she felt like she had another full-time job actively juggling to keep the farmers’ market open every week.

“Five or six days a week I was working on the farmers’ market,” she said. “It was really crazy for a while.”

During the many ups and downs of the first year, Allen said she came close to calling it quits several times. But with each time she thought about it, “another volunteer would come and lift it off my shoulders. We all really felt we were led by God to do this.”

The two have big ambitions, but with a relatively low volunteer base the first year, the two had to “pick and choose what we could do.”

Each subsequent year the market grew to the now 17-20 steady stream of vendors who come to sell their goods.

After meeting with customers who come to the market and talking with people around town, Chennault said she was surprised with the little knowledge people have about produce.

“People are so out of touch with where their food comes from,” she said. “Kids are growing up with all they know is fast food.”

With that in mind, the two want to work with the various school districts to educate children on what seasons some fruits and vegetables grow in, and how to eat and live healthy.

“We want to educate the next generation,” Allen said.

While keeping the true farmers’ market, the two decided that on the last weekend of every month, they would allow arts and crafts vendors to sell their wares.

“We thought that would be a good way to do it,” she said.

The market now has even more produce and goods to sell, thanks to an amendment in the Cottage Law allowing vendors to sell canned goods they make at their homes. After receiving a three-door refrigerator donated by the Daybreak Rotary Club, vendors can now sell eggs during the market as well.

With the success and continued growth of the market, the two said they want to keep to the motto the market holds to: “Teaching our community to return to their roots; providing and cooking their own food, and living a healthy life.”

“That’s what it really boils down to,” Chennault said.



For more information on the market, or to volunteer, visit their Facebook page at Friends of the Farmer’s Market - Greenville, TX, or their website at www.greenvillefarmersmarket.com

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