Healthier choices available at local farmers markers

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Posted: Tuesday, July 1, 2014 1:05 pm

From computers to ice cream, soda to shoes, and wines to beers, many products are manufactured, made or produced in Texas. The list is lengthy but some of the Texas-made products include movies, music and grocery stores that are born and elevated to empire status in the state.

Chewy pralines are made in Texas. Grapefruit, watermelon and other produce are grown in Texas. Owner-operated non-chain restaurants and cafes are made in Texas, and many of them buy and use the local foods grown in the Lone Star state.

Troll the Internet and you can find lists of items, some world renowned, made in Texas. But perhaps the more unique items made right here in the Lone Star state are showcased at local farmers markets dotting the Central Texas landscape on most any day of the week.

Many farmers market coordinators seem to have the same goal in mind: To introduce the public to sustainable farmers and artisans who produce homemade and homegrown products.

“The two main reasons we have our farmers market is to provide a healthier option in eating for the community and to support our local farmers,” said Alex Hainsinger, coordinator for Baylor Scott & White Farmers Market in Temple.

Baylor Scott & White

Farmers Market

9 a.m.-1 p.m. Wednesdays

(through September)

2401 S. 31st Street, Temple

What began as a 12-vendor market four years ago has steadily grown to 25 to 30 vendors offering an assortment of products and services each week. Two of those vendors are Glorified Granola and Zella Jo’s Handmade Soaps.

Glorified Granola

Glorified Granola is a non-GMO, gluten-free and paleo, faith-based business owned and operated by Emerald Solomon. She became interested in making her own granola two years ago in an effort to promote healthier eating for herself and her customers.

Cooking for others has been her passion since she was a kid, she said.

“I always recognized my mother’s love for me because she always had dinner ready for me when I got home from school,” Solomon said. “She worked a late shift as a nurse and wasn’t always there.”

Her mother’s ability to show love through homemade cooking inspired Solomon. As she became older, she began to make gifts for family and friends, instead of buying them.

“Glorified Granola started when I made granola for a friend at church,” she recalled. “That was my first order.”

Making a handmade present or preparing a meal for her friends and family is her way of loving and nourishing those closest to her, she said.

Some of her granola flavors include warm butter pecan, peanut butter almond crunch, apple cinnamon crisp, orange dream and French vanilla almond.

Zella Jo’s Handcrafted Soap

When Salado resident Shauna Hardin lived in Killeen, she used to drive 100 miles round trip to Austin just to buy handmade soaps. So she decided to make it herself.

As someone who “doesn’t go with the grain,” she decided to do something a bit different, however, with her soaps. In addition to her fragrant infused and natural vegetable soaps — she uses raw, fresh ingredients such as avocado, Swiss chard, tomatoes and other vegetables — she introduced tequila, wine and beer into the mix.

“I’m sort of a beer connoisseur,” Hardin said. “I love Texas beer.”

Her beer soap became an immediate hit with her male customers.

“I can’t keep the Texas beer soap for long,” she said. “The guys love it.”

She tries to use local Texas wine but relies on liquor stores for the beer and hard liquor. For her vegetable soaps, she purchases ingredients from area farmers markets.

“We don’t use vegetables in the processed state,” she said. “We take them raw and throw it into the soap mix.”

Harker Heights Farmers Market

8 a.m.-noon Saturdays through October

Seton Medical Center

850 W. Central Texas Expressway,

Harker Heights

It took two girls from the Midwest to get the Harker Heights Farmers Market running. Heather Cox is from Nebraska, and her former coworker, Sara Rodriguez, is from Iowa.

In the midwest farmers markets are a natural course of the weekend, Cox said. After she moved to this area in 2011 for an internship at Fort Hood, she decided to start the Harker Heights Farmers Market.

“We are a transient community,” Cox said. “People come in and out. The market is an opportunity to bring neighbors together. People really like it. This is something they have to do — check it off their list of things to do for that day.”

More than 30 unique vendors set up at the Harker Heights Farmers Market, including Euphoric Gingerbread, Woody’s Woodworking and Bestemor Herb Farms.

The Euphoric Gingerbread

Shellie Jensen named her company Euphoric Gingerbread because of her love for gingerbread.

“Last year I did wood cutouts and painted them as gingerbread men to use as decorations,” she said, laughing at the mention of it. “Gingerbread makes me happy, euphoric.”

Her gingerbread isn’t only decorative. She also makes edible gingerbread for the holidays.

Another facet of Jensen’s business is growing fresh mints, including pineapple mint, spearmint, chocolate mint, double mint, orange mint and mountain mint. She uses natural growing practices, plants her mints in a natural garden soil and sprays soap and water on the plants for pest control.

When the herbs grew faster than she could use them, she took her leftovers to sell as clippings at the Harker Heights Farmers Market. Eventually she began to transplant them into windowsill boxes for customers.

It isn’t just mints and gingerbread that keeps this vendor happy. She also has affection for squirrels and makes squirrel feeders, although she said they don’t sell well. She said she was surprised how many people around here don’t like squirrels because they “eat their garden.”

Jensen practices her own brand of squirrel philosophy,

“If you can’t beat them, join them,” she said. “I put my feeders up away from my garden. If they have food, they will stay away from your garden.”

Woody’s Woodworking

Joshua and Morgan Woodward of Woody’s Woodworking are new to the Central Texas farmers market scene. Together they continue a woodworking tradition started by Joshua’s grandfather. Some of the items they create together include jewelry boxes, key chains, key chain holders, pens and pen stands with decorative back drops, wine stoppers, ice cream scoops and pizza cutters.

Different types of wood are used for specific products. For example, birch, a lighter wood, is used for ornaments. For pens, maple or zebra wood is used.

“Different woods have different grains,” Morgan Woodward said.

Bestemor Herb Farms

Twin sisters Kim Berg and Kathe Kitchens raise herbs, produce and flowers on a half-acre plot of land on their farm in Belton. Kitchens said they raise their crops very carefully using only natural fertilizers and pest control.

“Our fertilizer is compost, seaweed and fish emulsions,” Kitchens said. “We make our own compost so all of the nutrients the plants on our herb farm get are natural.”

Kitchens said customers don’t have to worry about toxins.

“We don’t allow toxins on our land,” she said. “We never have synthetic fertilizers or pesticides.”

Most people aren’t sure how to use herbs very well, Kitchens said, so she brings samples of herb tea for her customers, including a tea made from Holy or Tulsi Basil.

“We introduced basil tea at our market and it became a fast favorite. It has cleansing properties that support the liver, lymph system, urinary function and gut,” Kitchens said.

In addition to her variety of basils and other herbs, the sisters also raise seasonal produce and flowers.

Pioneer Farmers Market

Tractor Supply

2002 E. Central Texas Expressway, Killeen

9 a.m.-2 p.m. Saturdays (through September)

Pioneer Farmers Market opened last October and hosts up to eight farm-related vendors every Saturday through Labor Day. Vendors sell local honey, eggs, baked goods, jams and jellies, and Texas produce.

Virginia’s Garden

Virginia Kessell brings her herbs, mints, rosemary, dried herbs and spice mixes to the market.

“When the garden comes in, I sell produce,” she said.

Last year was not a good year for produce, Kessell said, but she didn’t want to stop going to the market so she began making flavored syrups, including basil syrup, jams and jellies. Some of her jellies are diabetic-friendly, which she makes with Agave syrup instead of sugar. She also blends herbal teas.

CHEeK Flavored Pickles

Rebecca Bass and her mother-in-law, Pamela Stevers, heat up taste buds with their hot pickle flavors, such as the Fire Pickle, not quite the hottest, and The Zombie pickle, a much hotter infusion of jalapeño, Habanero, Serrano and Anaheim peppers.

“It’s pretty hot,” Rebecca Bass said. “Some people drink the juice and it’s nothing. Others will eat a half pepper and break out in a sweat and tears.”

These are just two of the 16 flavored pickles handmade by Bass and Stevers. They started making pickles a year ago and set up at the Pioneer Farmers Market every Saturday. Other flavors on their pickle palate lean more toward the savory and include less spicy alternatives like ranch, garlic, bacon, sesame teriyaki, Hawaiian ginger and The Steakhouse.

“It’s not your ordinary pickle,” Bass said. “We give pickles personality.”

Bell County Farmers Market 1 & 2

7 a.m.-sell out, Saturdays through September

Corner of Central Avenue and Penelope Street, Belton

7 a.m.-sell out, Tuesdays and Thursdays, through September

212 S. Main St., Temple

The Bell County Farmers Markets are a little smaller than some of the other farmers markets, but they have been around for “more than 30 years,” said coordinator Mary Coppin.

Coppin, said they have 16-17 vendors at any time. She considers all of her vendors unique, however, one that stands out is L.A. Jez Honey Farms in Temple.

Owned by Larry Jez, a veteran bee keeper who has worked with bees for more than 30 years, he currently has 12 hives at his farm in Temple. Jez sells his honey at the Belton Farmers Markets in Belton and Temple and said he sells out fast because of its “smooth, sweet taste.”

“You just want to eat more of it,” he said. “It’s good.”

Jez keeps his bees happy with proper nutrition and by making sure they have plenty of honey after the harvest to live on during the winter months and supplements their winter diet with sugar water. He medicates them when needed and feeds them a patty infused with vitamins and minerals formulated for bees.

Jez’s bees work anything with blooms but are partial to his tallow tree and crepe myrtle blooms. He also spreads a wildflower mix in fall and spring that the bees like to work.

“You’ve got to take care of your honey bees,” Jez said. “It helps them maintain a good healthy little body to do their thing.”

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