Snappy peas and succulent squash
are not all that have cropped up for Viridian’s Farmers Market, which launched earlier this year in North Arlington. Local artisans are also joining the mix – and the collection of tasty treats and artistic endeavors has quickly made the monthly market a favorite destination for residents and visitors.
Grow it Forward Farm owners Doug and Dacia Williams, along with their two children, run a small farm in Edom, Texas, just east of Dallas. The family-owned farm began providing fresh produce for the market after connecting with Viridian through social media, Doug Williams says after returning from a blistering purple hull pea harvest. “Arlington is a big city, and it needs a market,” he says. “The people that come are really prepared, and they come ready to buy. They stock up.”
Viridian spokesperson Amanda Lusty says the Farmers Market, which is open to everyone, offers visitors a fun venue where they can bargain with local vendors for much more than cantaloupes and melons. Along with the fresh fruits and vegetables that are trucked in by Grow it Forward Farm, shoppers can also peruse a variety of other items such as meat, tea, pickles and macaroons.
“We wanted to create the ability for our residents and the Arlington community to have access to locally produced food in ‘their own backyard,’ Lusty says. “We see and meet people from all areas of Arlington and all walks of life who support local business.” The popularity surge for organically grown produce is due in part to rising consumer health concerns about the use of pesticides in commercially grown foods that are sold in supermarkets.
Williams says Grow it Forward Farm
is not certified as organic by the government because of the extensive paperwork, policies and governmental entities that are involved. However, it does use organic farming methods without herbicides or pesticides. Generally, the food is brought to market within a few days of being picked. In addition, Williams tries to keep the prices at or below market price. The late summer crops that are in the ground now will provide turnips, collard greens, green beans, radishes and carrots for the market, he says.
Williams grew up helping out in his father’s market garden and working at produce stands in East Texas. When he went off to Tarleton State College in Stephenville, he and Dacia gardened there, as well. “A year ago, I decided to dive into it full time,” he says, adding that his children could plant and tend to a large garden themselves, if they had to.
The community is “extremely lucky” to have a local grower, and everyone loves the fresh produce that is available, Lusty says. However, she notes that her personal market favorite is T-Rex Pickles, which, she says, have absolutely the finest twang for a Texas palate. “Instead of vinegar and water, they use beer,” she says.
And it is not just beer that has been picked right off the shelf. No siree. With the local craft beer market burgeoning, Dallas pickler T-Rex douses jarfuls of locally grown fruits and vegetables – things like watermelon rinds and green beans – with craft beer for a uniquely robust experience.
“Can you still see the tooth marks on the watermelon rinds or did you shave them off?” quipped one T-Rex Facebook follower while another announced that he would get paid on Friday.
In addition to savory produce and pickles,
Lusty says the market also features a few acoustic musicians and is currently seeking to expand its local lineup. The Viridian development has also teamed up with Arlington Proud to add “a pop up art show” where local artisans can display their creations beneath canopies during the event.
Arlington Proud founder Mark Joeckel says the organization has a troupe of about two dozen painters, sculptors, and hand crafters. He expects about half of them to make a showing at the Farmers Market. Joeckel explains how the venue is a steppingstone for local artists that gives them an opportunity to earn money by selling their work as they journey toward becoming full-time artists.
“It’s not like New York where you have thousands of people coming by every day,” he notes. “You have to create the environment where people can come.”
The Farmers Market, which is located just east of North Collins Street in Overlook Park next to Viridian Lake Club, is a surreal environment, Joeckel says. He likens the view combined with its drifting smells of farm fresh produce to “stepping out into a watermelon field in the middle of a city.” “The experience is almost unbelievable,” he says. “It’s very unique and refreshing.”
Lusty says residents enjoy living in an environment
that focuses on living a healthy and active lifestyle and that has created a demand for locally grown foods. The 2,000-acre master planned community enjoys Gold Signature Sanctuary status from Audubon International, an organization that recognizes environmental stewardship. The development also has partnerships in place that support local agriculture.
“Anytime you visit Viridian you will find people cycling, sailing, or running on our trails and lakes. We really are an oasis in the center of the Metroplex.”
Viridian resident and small business owner Cathleen Mead says the market has been a great way for people to get out and get to know their neighbors. She started Double Dog Candles a year ago and her hand-poured, soy blend candles are available at the Farmers Market.
Williams believes Arlington could support a once-a- week market, and there are several vendors there that he enjoys buying from. “There’s a guy there with some jerky,” he says. “It was really good. And the Billyz Beanz Coffee, I like that coffee. And there are some good pickles there.”
The Viridian Farmers Market season will end in November and start again in March of 2017. For more information or to become a vendor, email firstname.lastname@example.org.