Last year during quarantine, Dana Joiner looked around and saw all of her Liberty City neighbors turning to hobbies like growing vegetables, making crafts and cooking jam.

An idea sprung up: Why not start a farmers market?

“I thought ‘Wow, Liberty City’s really being impressive during the pandemic. It’s so nice that everybody’s reverting back to these old-school ways of sustainability and growing things while the pandemic has created such a strange thing,’” she said. “I was really proud of my hometown that had done this, and I thought ‘Well, why can’t we have a farmers market to showcase this?’”

The idea took off, and now the Liberty City Local farmers market will return for its second season on Saturday, May 8. The market will be open from about 9 a.m. to 2 p.m. on the second and third Saturdays of the month through December at the site of the old Liberty City Community Center on Texas 135.

The farmers market turned out to be perfect for a community navigating COVID-19, Joiner said. Farmers markets were deemed essential and were allowed to operate because it involved selling food and produce. Joiner says it was also easy to find local vendors. They focused on “makers, bakers and crafters.”

“It just felt like something the community needed and also it felt like something they were doing already,” she said. “Like I noticed that a lot of friends and neighbors were growing gardens in their backyards and they were giving it to their neighbors that were elderly. I thought that was super cool, and I just felt like that was something that needed some attention.”

Joiner put out an ad inviting farmers and growers to the market, and she said some people were hesitant to sell their wares because it was just a hobby they were doing during quarantine.

“It was kind of funny, the people that thought (their products weren’t) good enough were the people who were the best booths that had like rows and rows of these amazing jams and canned goods,” she said.

Joiner has shopped at farmers markets in Longview and Mineola and says they sometimes struggle to get local vendors. Longview, she said, usually tops out at 20 vendors.

“I didn’t know what to expect out of Liberty City, but I will tell you this: We had 28 vendors on our third market and 20 on our first,” she said. “So that tells me that this small community had a lot of talent, and I was very proud of that. To have one of the biggest farmers markets in East Texas at your very first crack at it was pretty great. And if we put more signs up, I think we would have had even more people coming through, but we certainly weren’t short of vendors.”

She is very excited about coming back for another year. This year, the Liberty City Local wants to bring on more food trucks, and they’re also planning some photo opportunities. They also want to do a special “Youth Vendor November” like last year where at one market they showcase student entrepreneurs.

And although the COVID-19 restrictions are no longer in place, Joiner is confident that the farmers market will live on.

“We presented the opportunity that people could come and get homemade bread. I think once you have that feeling about something, you’re kind of like ‘Oh, let’s wait, we’ll go to the market. It’s coming up this Saturday,’” she said. “I think we’re going to see the same people even though everything’s back in action because it’s just such a rare thing to be able to go and get home-baked goods and fresh vegetables that you know came from a local grower and you can support your community that way as opposed to just grabbing something at the store.”

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Meredith Shamburger serves as the regional editor for Carthage and Kilgore. She has previously worked at the Longview News-Journal, the Marshall News Messenger and The Dallas Morning News. Meredith graduated from Southern Methodist University in 2011.

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