Q&A: Vickery Meadow Local Market director Sarah Perry

Sarah Perry and Mary Norvell founded White Rock Local Market five years ago. Now, Sarah Perry shares more about the nonprofit’s new farmers market.
Sarah Perry and Mary Norvell founded White Rock Local Market five years ago. Now, Sarah Perry shares more about the nonprofit’s new farmers market.

It’s been about two months since the launch of the Vickery Meadow Local Market, which sets up shop in the Half Price Books parking lot each Sunday, selling locally grown food, crafts and more. Curious about the market — named for one of the most highly diverse communities in the city — I interviewed Sarah Perry, director of the Vickery Meadow and White Rock local markets, to learn more.

What inspired you to start the Vickery Meadow Local Market?
The Vickery Meadow neighborhood is a dynamic and incredibly diverse neighborhood, with so many assets to offer the rest of the city. But even though it is right in the middle of everything it is overlooked. As a place for a market, we recognized that it has great potential, and there we could have a market that connects the neighborhood with greater Dallas. We have had great success in our other East Dallas locations, and wanted to give our vendors more opportunities to reach people in the city.

How were you able to get it started?
This fall, White Rock Local Market received a $78,565 grant from the USDA for a two year cycle to establish the market (through their AMS, Farmers Market promotion Program). We are one of only five groups in the state to have been funded. The purpose of the grant is to create new direct customers for regional farmers and agricultural producers — and to create a new venue for direct sales. This is exactly what White Rock Local Market has done with its other markets, and what we will do with the USDA grant. We feel honored that starting the Vickery Meadow Local Market has been recognized by the USDA as a worthy project.

How many vendors are at the market each Sunday?
The number of vendors changes from week to week, but we have approximately 30 vendors at a time. That number will increase over time as we draw more customers.

What are some ways that you guys are reaching out to the Vickery Meadow community to encourage their participation?
Having just gotten started, we are still working to get the word out. We will circulate flyers, and host events where we meet with folks to tell them about the market and to get feedback about the types of products they would like to see. We are excited that our USDA grant allows us to do this kind of outreach.

What sort of food stamp programs does Vickery Meadow market have?
White Rock Local Market accepts Lone Star (food stamps) at all of our markets – we were the first in Dallas to do so in 2011. We have looked for ways to use models from around the country to offer “double value coupons” or “bonus bucks” for a long time. Now that we have received a grant from the USDA, we can strengthen the program we already have in place and begin to develop a double value program.

What’s that?
The way it works is that we would participate in a state-wide grant initiative to raise the funds needed to administer the program. A customer could shop at our markets, and double the value of the dollars spent buying fruits and vegetables, up to $25. We are just beginning to look at ways to collaborate with other markets in the state.

What would you like to see happen at the market over the next year?
We look forward to reaching out to the Vickery meadow community. We also plan to explore ways to mentor residents to become vendors. We would like the market to share the cultural diversity Vickery Meadow brings to the city.

(This interview has been edited for brevity.)

 
Visiting the Vickery Meadow Local Market this weekend? Here are a few of the vendors you will find:

unnamed-1Juha Ranch, located in Barry, Texas, sells clean meats including pastured lamb, grass fed beef, pastured pork, sausage, and eggs.

Laraland Farms & Red Wattle Ranch sell pasture-raised pork. Lara Croft, self-proclaimed chief chicken wrangler, says you’ll need to get to the market well before 11 a.m. if you want to nab some free-range eggs before they sell out. (Also, her bratwurst samples with mustard are a mighty fine sell.)

The Fisher Family Farm and Ranch sells pecan charcoal and a variety of seasonal produce, including zucchini and sweet potatoes.

Honey purveyors Susan and Brandon Pollard of the Texas Honeybee Guild sell honey and honeycomb in various forms — the pecan and cinnamon honey looked particularly appetizing/sinful. (Learn about the Pollard’s efforts to save local honeybees in Advocate’s July 2013 photo essay here.)

unnamed-2Alba Torres at the International Rescue Committee booth partners with Vickery Meadow residents to sell locally grown produce. On my visit, Bhutanese refugee Kaji Bhandari (pictured left) was selling fresh greens and radishes. He moved into the Vickery Meadow community five years ago after living in a refugee camp in Nepal. As a participant of the International Rescue Committee’s garden project, Bhandari tends a plot in an East Dallas garden owned by the nonprofit Gardeners in Community Development.

The Vickery Meadow Local Market meets at Half Price Books on Northwest Highway every Sunday from 9:00 a.m. – 2:00 p.m. through December 14, and will resume March 2015.


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