The Denton Community Market turns seven

The Denton Community Market turns seven

The Denton Community Market turns seven
April 04
14:06 2017

Taylor Crisler | Staff Writer

t is 9 a.m., and a familiar sight for this time of the year presents itself.

Around the corner from jars of golden zucchini jam adorned by fair ribbons, past the child cowboys roping calves made of PVC plastic with harsh red painted eyes, stand three generations of women. Red metal and colorful beads are humbly arranged behind them in the half light of an awning.

Musicians form in the Market’s heart, with a bass drum and obscured violin providing background music to the women’s conversation.

The women are meticulously organizing pieces of handmade jewelry, displaying them to catch the eye of anyone who walks by. It’s a breezy Saturday morning and the first of many over the next few months where they’ll be standing proud in front of their work.

It’s one of their favorite parts of spring.

“I mean, we got a steady increase,” Heather Deaton said, looking around at the people walking around.

“The market itself has increased in size enormously because there were,” Rachel Windsor said before being cut off.

“Maybe a dozen booths in 2012,” Eileen O’Neill adds to her daughter’s statement.

“Well, more than that,” Windsor said.

“Well, maybe 15 [or] 18,” O’Neill said. “But no more. So each year, it’s gotten bigger.”

“This year there’s something like 100 booths,” Windsor said.

This year, there are 120 booths. And the women of Tranquility Artisans are just one of the many local vendors showcased at this year’s opening day of the Denton Community Market.

Tranquility Artisans is a local business which, having seen the past five of seven years of the Denton Community Market, has witnessed a staggering growth. Windsor and her mother, O’Neill, have been crafting jewelry at the DCM since 2012, joking that the business was mostly a way to support their jewelry making habit. Deaton joined the collective in 2013, contributing her illustration work.

As their own business became more sophisticated, so did the market. Starting this year, the DCM is one of only two community markets in the Dallas-Fort Worth area to participate in the WIC Farmers’ Market Nutrition Program, extending the means-tested welfare program for women, infants and children out from the usual multinational grocery stores to local agribusiness.

Not all community markets are the same. Windsor, for example, likes that the wares for sale at the DCM must be handcrafted and locally made. Tranquility will sometimes sell at school fairs where vendors will sell mass produced jewelry online for $2 a piece, which is a “different kind of competition,” she notes. Keeping things producer-owned keeps it more egalitarian.

“We’re trying to be a little bit more organized,” said Kiara Soller, a DCM employee and UNT Integrative Studies graduate.

A display of 5G Farms’ wares at the Denton Community Market’s opening day. The metal cards are Swiss Army-style survivalist devices. Taylor Crisler

This includes limiting items to increase variety, encouraging farmers by offering lower exhibition fees and unfortunately having to turn some vendors away when the DCM reaches capacity.

Not only are the vendors all producer-owned, but all produce is sourced within a 100-mile radius. These are the standard localist arguments of food production, which you can peruse by Googling any variation of “buy local” — stronger community bonds, better quality goods and more sustainable business practice.

This yearning for communalism or social cohesion is shared by pretty much everyone at DCM, from the employees to the producers to the customers.

“It’s really nice to have that relationship and that connection with people,” Soller said.

DCM first timers Kristin and John McKee’s business, Babylove’s Farm. They bring their fresh product from their farm to share it with people all over the Denton community each Saturday morning.

“We’re trying to grow our own food so we feel like, you know, we’re growing 100 percent,” John said. “So we want to sell somewhere where everyone’s kind of on the same playing field.”

While the McKee’s have only been farming their one-acre plot for the past three years, they know the score. Large-scale family farms account for only two percent of all farms, but 35 percent of production. Small-scale family farms account for only 26 percent of production but represent 90 percent of U.S. farms.

“We’ve sold out of a lot of things already, which is just amazing,” Kristin said, an occupational therapist and TWU graduate. “We were surprised, we really didn’t know what to expect here.”

Most of these small-scale operations, like Babylove, are thus not only “producer-owned,” but “worker-owned.”

Most farmers at the DCM also don’t have the “temporarily embarrassed millionaire” attitude one might find in other sectors. While the romanticism of the rugged individualist farmer certainly persists, the optimism you will find here is more practical.

“The first market we came to I think we had about three dozen eggs to sell, and now we came here today with about 40 dozen eggs to sell,” said DCM veteran Erin Tran, who farms as part of the Denton Farmer’s Cooperative.

They’ve been toiling for the past three years since inheriting a Sanger farm, moving from California and starting off with just chickens, ducks and sheep.

Erin also tends to reflect on the national average. In 2012, farmers were reliant on income sources outside the farm to make up 80 percent of their household income. Most of the Trans’ income comes from her husband Sondi’s IT job in Fort Worth, while the profit from the market goes to help pay for the farm.

“It’s pretty tight I think for farmers generally,” Sondi said, comparing their respective careers. “I sell my chicken eggs for $5 and the costs that go into making a carton of eggs is a little more than $4, so it’s pretty slim margins.”

While it can be difficult to sell farm fresh products when grocery stores around the area sell similar products, the Denton Community Market provides an opportunity for something fresh and new.

“I mean the main reason is [that] you’re supporting your local economy, you’re supporting real people that care about the community and you’re not supporting like a giant business that doesn’t necessarily value you as a customer,” Soller said.

Featured Image: Opening day at the Denton Community Market. This is the DCM’s seventh year in operation. Opening day featured 120 vendors and four musical acts. Taylor Crisler

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North Texas Daily

North Texas Daily

The North Texas Daily is the official student newspaper of the University of North Texas, proudly serving UNT and the Denton community since 1916.

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