Seven years ago, two long-time friends got together to come up with ideas on how to add new life to Rockwalls downtown square. Buildings long vacant were just beginning to come back with retail and restaurants, and it seemed like a resurgence was in the making. How then to keep the momentum going and attract more visitors?
For Barb Coleson and Claudette Hatfield, one idea to run with was a good old-fashioned farmers market. Their thought was that, since there are hundreds of small farmers and ranchers right here in our local area looking for ways to get their products to market, an open-air venue in the courthouse square would be a great way to help them out while showcasing the attractions of our unique downtown area.With that in mind, they got busy and started contacting city and county officials to get official blessing for the concept.
“It took quite a while to navigate all the channels needed to get it approved,” said Ms. Coleson. “The next step was to line up enough vendors to make it an attractive destination.” With the help of Canton farmer Rowdy Heddin, they were able to elicit the interest of enough growers and producers to organize their first market as part of the 2007 Downtown Founders Day celebration.
“It was an amazing success,” said Claudette, “both with visitors and vendors. Its been growing ever since. Were currently maxed out with 30 vendors, and we have a substantial waiting list. It just keeps getting better and better.” It also doesnt hurt that the price is right. At ten dollars for a ten-foot by ten-foot space, with the option to double it for $20, it would be hard to imagine a more affordable place to present their wares.
So, what makes Rockwalls Farmers Market so special? “Not all markets are this well-run. Vendors like us because we are run by volunteers who are passionate about the event. And customers like us because we can afford to be choosy about who gets to set up here. We try to run it as if its in our own back yard. And in a way, it is!”
Theres a lot to like among the tables and tents arrayed around the square, with the historic courthouse as a backdrop. Besides the usual assortment of organic fruits and vegetables, one can find natural grass-fed meats raised without hormones or antibiotics, organic honey produced locally (great for allergies), arts and crafts, homemade jams, jellies, sauces, pastries, candies, or supplies for your own garden. And with an adoption tent set up by Rockwall Pets, shoppers can even go home with a new four-legged family member.
Barb and Claudette became friends about 34 years ago when the Colesons moved to Rockwall. Both ladies became active with the Womens League and Friends of the Library. Says Barb,”Back then, those were about the only two groups around where we could get together and donate our time to make the community a better place. Of course, now there are so many opportunities to get involved.” Besides the Farmers Market, they stay active with Friends of Downtown, Main Street Advisory Board, and Rockwall Summer Musicals, to name just a few.
The Farmers Market is held from 8:00 AM until noon every Saturday through September. Even with the construction going on as part of the Downtown Improvement Project, parking is plentiful in lots around the square. See the map at http://www.rockwall.com/mainstreet/parking.asp .
by Bob Lewis – Photos by Planet Rockwall