RANCHO VIEJO — The “old ranch” is getting a new farmers market.
Residents of the community of Rancho Viejo are collaborating with the town’s municipality and Rancho Viejo Country Club & Resort to establish a farmers market of their own. The inaugural event is scheduled for 3-6 p.m. on Thursday, March 30, at City Hall, 3301 Carmen Ave.
Rancho Viejo resident Bonnie Emerson, proprietor of The Healthy Nut, a regular presence at the Brownsville Farmers’ Market known for its granola, nuts, seeds and best-selling honey pecan tarts, is in charge of facilitating and organizing the new market.
“Everybody had been talking about it for so long,” she said. “It seemed like the club had been talking about and the city had been talking about it. We just all came together and decided to make it happen.”
Emerson said the concept complements Rancho Viejo’s existing health-and-wellness program. The market’s offerings will include local organic product, locally produced cheeses, baked goods and honey; fresh herbs and flowers, citrus, farm eggs, coffees and teas, artisan chocolates and so on, she said.
Patrons of the Brownsville, Harlingen and South Padre Island farmers markets will recognize many of the same vendors, Emerson said. Rancho Viejo’s chef will feature market items and incorporate them into the club’s menu, she said. The market will also feature the Brownsville Wellness Coalition’s FRESCO Mobile Farmers Market.
The market will be held twice a month, likely the second and fourth Thursday of each month, unless there’s enough demand for a weekly market, she said. It won’t be held during peak summer months, when growers’ yields are scarce, Emerson said.
Though the focus will be primarily on local food, the market will eventually incorporate locally made arts and crafts as well, she said. Live music will also be a component. Emerson said Rancho Viejo’s market is based in part on Brownsville’s and others she’s visited. This week Emerson is in Oklahoma touring farmers markets and scouting for more ideas, she said.
“I’ve had a dream of opening a farmers market for so long,” she said. “This is a hobby of mine.”
Emerson stressed that Rancho Viejo isn’t competing with Brownsville but rather helping spread BWC’s message of healthy eating and supporting local vendors and agriculture. In fact, the organizers of Rancho Viejo’s market consulted BWC before doing anything else, she said.
“That’s why we got Brownsville involved,” Emerson said. “We didn’t want anybody to think we’re trying to compete or take business away. I think it will enhance what we have in Brownsville.”
Veronica Rosenbaum, BWC executive director and manager of the Brownsville Farmers’ Market, confirmed that “we definitely mentored and gave guidance on everything that we could. They’re multiplying, which is good.”
Her main concern, she said, is that vendors have enough inventory for every farmers market during the week. Harlingen’s market takes place on Saturday afternoons and South Padre’s on Sunday afternoons.
Rosenbaum welcomed the spread of the concept around in the region, noting that Brownsville’s market has made big strides despite the inevitable mistakes and growing pains.
“When I started in 2014 we had about 12 or 13 vendors,” she said. “We’re over 33 vendors now. I think our numbers from then, 2014, we had 150 to 200 people show up every Saturday, and now we’re up to 500 to 600 people. On a really good day we’ll get about 700 out there.”
Emerson said Rancho Viejo has caught the fever as well.
“They see a need, and people are getting excited about it,” she said. “They want to eat healthy and they want to eat local.”
For information or an application to be a Rancho Viejo Farmers Market vendor, message the market’s Facebook page or call 956-466-7359.
Valley Farmers Market Schedules
WHEN: 3 to 4:30 p.m., Saturdays
WHERE: “A” Street between Jackson and Monroe
WHEN: 9 a.m. to noon, Saturdays (Farmers market closed now, will start up on June 10)
WHERE: Linear Park, 1534 E. 6th St.
South Padre Island
WHEN: 11 a.m. to 1 p.m., Sundays
WHERE: 8605 Padre Blvd. at Shores
WHEN: 9 a.m. to 6 p.m., everyday
WHERE: Between Wesgate and Milano Road on Bus. 83