A long, frosty Texas winter might delay vendor attendance at the Harker Heights farmers market, but officials expect this year’s market to attract the most participants yet.

Starting May 4 through the end of September, vendors from Harker Heights to Mexia will sell produce from 7 a.m. to noon every Saturday at Carl Levin Park. All food items will be Texas-grown, said Heather Cox, Harker Heights activities coordinator.

As of Tuesday, 16 vendors had signed up. In 2011, the season started with four vendors, and in 2012, it ended with 38, Cox said.

After a cold winter, obstacles remain in attracting farmers.

“We’ve had a weird season,” Cox said. “It frosted after the Farmer’s Almanac’s frost date. Most produce will be ready by mid- to late May. We’ll get more vendors once that growing season gets underway.”

Although Harker Heights gardener and beekeeper Steven Hoskins will attend the first farmers market, he predicts farmers will bring less produce because of recent droughts and record low temperatures.

“I have plants that I haven’t planted yet that I’d normally be harvesting,” he said.

But as a beekeeper, Hoskins’ situation is unique. He tends to 13 beehives across the area, and sells more honey than fruits and vegetables.

While this year’s market might draw an armful of crop vendors if the weather improves, officials will limit artisan sales in an effort to exclusively promote local produce. Artists will sell goods only at the first market every month rather than every Saturday.

But the aim isn’t to restrict the event to produce sales. Cox encourages musicians to print out and turn in applications to perform, earn tips and sell merchandise. For applications, go to http://www.ci.harker-heights.tx.us/parks.

Cox also said the city will conduct canned-food and school-supply drives on occasional Saturdays.

While eating locally-sourced food can bring substantial personal health benefits, the farmers market also facilitates environmental and economic health, Cox said.

“Less chemicals go into sourcing locally because it takes less distance to travel from farm to table,” Cox said. “You’re helping your local economy by buying locally. That money will go straight into your community and grow the community you live in.”

Cox recognized the need for a farmers market in Heights in 2011 when she saw an opportunity for the community to solidify its identity in a transient, military-based area.

“It’s a good way to meet people,” she said. “Coming out, you’re going to get to know your neighbors and get to know that sense of community.”

Hoskins, 55, enjoys going to the farmers market because he can chat with people he might not otherwise meet. “I get to meet people with common interests and just generally nice people,” he said.

Carl Levin Park is at 400 Miller’s Crossing.

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