By Melissa Tate
In 2008, Claudette Hat eld and Barb Coleson began the Rockwall Farmers Market. They were “looking for ways to bring activity to downtown,” says Claudette. At the time, the city was more interested in bringing businesses to downtown but the women had a different idea. They wanted to foster community and bring activities to the area. They started “Friends of Downtown” in 2006, a volunteer only, non-pro t organization whose main goal was, and still is, to advocate for downtown
Rockwall. They decorate for Scare on the Square in the fall, brighten up the square for the holidays, pushed for the build of public restrooms and originated the farmers market.
The market started with less than 10 vendors and a handful of volunteers. Their loyalty has never wavered, it has always been to and for the vendors. Harmony with their vendors has trickled down and over owed into the positive relationships they have with volunteers and patrons resulting in a spot on the “Best Farmers Markets in the Dallas area” list. It has continued to grow every year and reached over 50 vendors this past year. Just like Friends of Downtown, the Rockwall Farmers Market has continued to be a volunteer only organization. They have a small committee of 5 women whom all have their own role and good group of volunteers whose sole job is to welcome and interact with vendors and patrons. Claudette heads up the groups and presses forward with the vision she and Coleson had many years ago. Barb Coleson passed away in 2017 during the farmers market season and is missed by all and recognized in downtown square.
The women realize that everything they do is a re ection of the city. The City of Rockwall and Rockwall County have both been incredibly supportive over the years. The county lets them use the property while the city sends 2 employees each week to help with set up, trash, signs, etc. The committee mentioned over and over how important the relationships are. They could not do it without the volunteers, they could not do it without the county or the city or the patrons that come out every single weekend to support their very favorite vendors. “It’s all about the sense of community” Claudette said as we all sat and talked on March 12, none of us knowing that just a few days later the market, and the world, would change in a way no one could have imagined.
For the first time in its history, the Rockwall Farmers Market did not begin in May. As they navigate new regulations and safety precautions, the committee is positive that this year will be another success. The city council unanimously approved the closure of the 100 block of East Kaufman Street from sun up to 1:00 PM on Saturdays during the farmers market. The market will continue to take place around downtown square. Market aisles and vendor booths will both have increased spacing to ensure social distancing. Two hand washing stations will be provided by the market and each vendor must have hand washing stations and hand sanitizer of their own. There will be no food prepared on site, served or distributed at the market, i.e. no samples, Face coverings are encouraged for patrons and required for vendors. Now, more than ever, the Rockwall Farmers Market wants to be here for its vendors and patrons. The vendors need the income and the patrons need essential items they may have had trouble nding over the past two months. The importance of ranchers, farmers and makers is abundantly apparent during this time and the market is proud to once again step into its role as an advocate for community in Rockwall County.