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Victoria farmers market looks to grow

By BY JOSE GONZALEZ - SPECIAL TO THE ADVOCATE
June 6, 2014 at 1:06 a.m.


IF YOU GO

• WHAT: Victoria County Farmer's Market

• WHEN: 9 a.m.-2 p.m. every Tuesday and Saturday

• WHERE: Dr. Pattie Dodson Public Health Center, 2805 N. Navarro St.

Blame it on the rain - or perhaps the municipal requirements it faces - but the Victoria County Farmers Market has not grown at the rate some of its supporters would hope.

"We're trying to build it up," vendor Rebecca Graber said.

The farmers market has been in existence since at least the 1980s, said Veronica Riehs, the organization's president. Despite this, the vendors are in short supply. On May 31, seven producers were on-site.

Riehs said that was the highest number of vendors so far this year. She said the lack of produce because of a recent excess of rain is a reason for the low turnout.

"A lot of the produce has drowned," Riehs said.

Graber, a grower from Yoakum, sells her jams and jellies at the farmers market and Dick's Food Market. She offered a possible solution: increased advertising.

"It's a matter of getting the word out," Riehs agreed.

Riehs, who identified herself as a housewife, said she volunteered to lead the organization to prevent it from folding.

She has worked to promote the organization on Facebook but said she has seen little results in the way of customer flow. The organization's page on social media has a little more than 500 "likes," somewhat of an overrepresentation of the actual business it attracts.

Riehs said the organization is limited in how much advertising it can do because of city ordinances, but she has not checked into all the requirements.

"I haven't followed through with some of the things I probably should have," Riehs said about these municipal requirements. "I'm not even sure what those (requirements) are."

One frequent customer, Teek Miller, a retired school teacher and 20-year Victoria area resident, pointed to municipal codes that she said bar certain vendors from participating.

"I think it's sad," Miller said.

Another possible obstacle is the open-air setting.

Graber said people are deterred from becoming repeat customers because of the natural elements like the rain or heat.

"We would love it if the city would let us be inside," Graber said. "That way, (customers) would know that we're there every time."

But some repeat customers said the parking lot location works just fine.

Melody Vecera, creative services manager at the University of Houston-Victoria, occasionally shops the farmers market Saturdays because the produce is local and she considers it fresh. She said drive-by traffic will draw more new customers versus an isolated location that could carry the risk of being ignored.

Vecera ultimately leaves the success of the farmers market to the law of supply and demand.

"If you're looking for it, then you're bound to find it," Vecera said.

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