Houston's farmers market scene to see big changes: Sundays, beer gardens & more
Former Highland Village farmers market director Mickey Morales and Urban Harvest executive director Mark Bowen are now confirming that the River Oaks area produce palace will see a change of hands, reopening under the leadership of Urban Harvest on Jan. 9. CultureMap first reported the news Tuesday.
Urban Harvest has expanded its reach in 2010 from its original Eastside Street home to rescuing the Discovery Green farmers market and launching a much-lauded City Hall edition. While praised for its inspired architecture, the previous incarnation of the Highland Village bazaar stood in the shadow of the more robust offerings at the Eastside emporium. Now, the nearby locations will complement one another, with Eastside operating on Saturday mornings and Highland Village holding court on Sundays, 9 a.m. to 1 p.m.
"On early Sunday mornings, we hope to attract the serious type of shoppers who frequent Eastside, who are there to stock up on produce for the week," Bowen says. "For the 11 to 1 segment, we hope to offer a farm-to-market brunch, bringing in various Houston chefs to highlight local foods."
Expect collaborations with locavores like Haven's Randy Evans and Catalan's Chris Shepherd and a yet-to-be-named upcoming Highland Village restaurant that will boast a menu infused with local offerings.
While the reinvigorated Highland Village morning market promises to be the epicenter of posh produce, the sister Sunday afternoon Urban Harvest market at Discovery Green will receive an update in 2011. The formerly drab selection of 10 stalls has already been upped to 25 vendors, and Bowen says that a craft beer garden is on the way. Shoppers will have the option of combining their downtown park jaunt with fresh produce and prepared foods, along with a brewskie and constant live music.
"It will have more of a festival feel to it," Bowen explains. Sunday Funday has never felt so righteous.
As for the leadership shuffle at Highland Village, former market director Mickey Morales (who resigned on Dec. 18) expressed a few reservations regarding the move to a Sunday affair.
"Sunday markets don't work well when it comes to farmers," he says. "You're asking a farmer to make two 100-mile-plus trips back to back. In the daylight savings period, it's almost impossible. A lot of farmers are church-going people and don't work on Sundays as a whole."
Not so, argues Bowen: "Several vendors have already said 'We're in' because they're large enough to send two separate crews. What we'll see is a greater number of farm suppliers at the market. We've also heard from other people that because of the nature of their faith, Sunday will be a better option for them. The farmers on Eastside will now have the option of selling at Highland Village.
"And in case the move to Sunday doesn't work out for some of the vendors, we're going to work hard to make sure they will get set up with other market opportunities. They'll be treated like stakeholders and continue to have an opportunity without additional annual fees." He adds,
I think the local market movement is maturing. As we go forward, there will be different potential vendors: There's a Tuesday option at Rice, Wednesday at City Hall, Saturday at Eastside and Midtown. I think what we're headed towards is a market environment in which all of the existing inside the Loop markets will provide constant access to local food. That's unprecedented in Houston."
When Urban Harvest was approached by Highland Village to manage the market following Morales' resignation, Bowen was quick to jump on the opportunity to keep the market running.
"We also looked at a Thursday evening market, but parking wouldn't work on that retail day," he says. "There's been a lot of talk about the six certified markets working in concert to provide opportunities to vendors and customers."
Bowen paints a picture of blissful market matrimony. With the new complimentary Saturday and Sunday schedules and progressive programing, Houston consumers will indeed have improved access to the cornucopia of locally harvested food.
Editor's note: Read the first CultureMap story that broke the news of the Highland Village market changeover.