Growing Community: Farmers markets lead to more small-scale produce sellers


WESLACO – Organizers say the first in a series of events designed to help new, small-acreage South Texas agricultural producers will begin later this month with the workshop, Marketing Strategies for Local Growers.

The free workshop will be held from 5:30-8:30 p.m. June 30 at the Texas A&M AgriLife Research and Extension Center at Weslaco, located at 2415 E. Highway 83, near the intersection of Farm-to-Market 1015.

With the creation of farmers markets and other venues throughout the Rio Grande Valley, many people with little or no experience have successfully taken up agriculture on a small scale to sell produce directly to consumers, said Dr. Samuel Zapata, a Texas A&M AgriLife Extension Service economist in Weslaco.

“One of the biggest challenges that small-scale producers face is the marketing of their agricultural products,” he said. “Fortunately, novel technology innovations now offer the opportunity to effectively and inexpensively connect with a vast number of potential customers.”

The workshop will focus on simple, inexpensive ways to better market agricultural products using technology and other resources, said Ashley Gregory, the AgriLife Extension horticulturist for Hidalgo County.

“We all know marketing is important,” she said. “But when you’re new or small, you may not have the funds to do a lot of marketing. We’ll be discussing some inexpensive or even free things people can use to effectively market their products.”

Gregory said the workshop could be highly beneficial for small-acreage growers, beginning farmers and military veterans who want to provide the community with fresh, local produce while making a profit.

Scheduled speakers and their topics include:

– Daphne Richards, AgriLife Extension agent for horticulture, Travis County, using websites and social media to market local agricultural products.

– Zapata, electronic marketing and the potential benefits of using MarketMaker, an electronic marketing platform that connects farmers with food retailers, grocery stores, processors, caterers, chefs and consumers.

– Gregory and Jennifer Herrera, AgriLife Extension agent for horticulture, Cameron County, demonstration of features and capabilities of the MarketMaker website.

– Chris Bueno, community garden manager at the Food Bank of the Rio Grande Valley, Pharr, challenges and experiences as a grower and a farmers market manager.

– Colin Cain, director of the South Texas Rural Producer Assistance Project, University of Texas Rio Grande Valley, Edinburg, overview of services and marketing plan assistance provided by the Center for Rural Advancement.

The second workshop in this series for small-acreage producers will be held July 22 and will focus on helping growers improve decision-making by taking advantage of available production resources such as weather station data, census results and economic decision aid tools.

For more information contact Herrera at 956-361-8236 or Gregory at 956-383-1026.