100 Dallas Creatives: No. 49 Farmer's Market Localvore Sarah Perry
Mixmaster presents "100 Creatives," in which we feature cultural entrepreneurs of Dallas in random order. Know an artistic mind who deserves a little bit of blog love? Email firstname.lastname@example.org with the whos and whys.
In 2009, Sarah Perry had an idea for a neighborhood market. She was tired of going all the way downtown to buy local produce, and wondered why nothing similar but smaller existed near her in east Dallas. She partnered with her friend Mary Norvell and began looking for locations. After talking with Green Spot's Bruce Bagelman, he agreed that they could set up there, and White Rock Local Market was born. "Bruce could have easily said no and we wouldn't have thought twice," Perry says. The market operated two Saturdays a month and it quickly blossomed. Three years later, it had obtained 501c3 status and began accepting food stamps.
Soon, Perry recognized that there was demand for a farmer's market more than twice a month. "That wasn't enough to make an impact on the community and to give the vendors the best economic opportunities," she says. Perry opened a second market at Lakeside Baptist church and just recently, she opened a third at Half Price Books on Northwest Highway. That market, which she's calling Vickery Meadow Local Market, is in a more ethnically diverse neighborhood and she hopes its character will be influenced by that diversity. Between all three markets, Perry is now bringing locally sourced goods to east Dallas every weekend.
Food, glorious food.
Did you grow up eating local? My grandfather was a farmer, so my mom was raised on locally grown meats and vegetables. For her generation, it was really great to have canned beans -- frozen spinach was the best new thing. So, I grew up eating that stuff. To her it was old-fashioned to do it any other way. But now everybody, including her, has come back around to having gardens, growing things to eat, picking that day and trying to buy locally. Although, she still thinks canned asparagus is pretty special.
Were you always interested in agriculture? I went to film school and I used to work in film and television, but I have always been interested in agriculture. When I was 12, I wanted to major in farm and ranch management. This has just been a long way 'round of getting back to that connection with agriculture.
What do you buy every week when you shop the market? For better or worse, I always buy pastries. I try to buy produce from our hyper-local gardeners who grow in east Dallas. I like to buy small quantities at a time, and they have some really unusual and tasty produce.
You also host a lot of vendors who sell non-food items, tell me about them. From the beginning, it was an interest of mine and Mary's to include local artists. When we started the market, people might have said they wanted local food but when it came down to it, there was a learning curve. It takes time to educate people that they can shop locally for their groceries every week. Having the arts and crafts was a marketing strategy. It was a way to bring people in and give them things to buy when they weren't necessarily interested in buying asian eggplant. We also enjoy giving talented artists who make jewelry, or paint, or make furniture an outlet to have a little etsy market where they can meet their customers directly. That has been successful and it's exciting. Some people have gone to open storefronts.
In addition to your food stamp program, WRLM offers a number of other programs and workshops. Did you always have humanitarian goals for the market? We always saw the potential for it, but it developed over time. Because we operate three locations currently, that's occupying a lot of our attention. It's a lot to manage. But we have a community garden, and we really enjoy all of the opportunities that come with the market. Our workshop series classes are taught by vendors who bring their skills and expertise and share them with people who'd like to learn for themselves. We'll bring that back in the winter.
What are your hopes for the future of your markets? We would like to offer double value coupon programs with our food stamp sales, where if you use 10 dollars of Lone Star benefits, you would be able to spend 20. We would raise money to support the additional coupons. I would also be interested in helping other neighborhoods start markets that appeal to whatever their needs and desires are. I'd like to expand our community garden. At the Vickery Meadow Local Market, we'd like to mentor our residents. We'd like to bring, say, an Iraqi baker who sells bread to his neighbors into our market and help him to reach a bigger audience.
100 Creatives: 100. Theater Mastermind Matt Posey 99. Comedy Queen Amanda Austin 98. Deep Ellum Enterpriser Brandon Castillo 97. Humanitarian Artist Willie Baronet 96. Funny Man Paul Varghese 95. Painting Provocateur Art Peña 94. Magic Man Trigg Watson 93. Enigmatic Musician George Quartz 92. Artistic Luminary Joshua King 91. Inventive Director Rene Moreno 90. Color Mavens Marianne Newsom and Sunny Sliger 89. Literary Lion Thea Temple 88. Movie Maestro Eric Steele 87. Storytelling Dynamo Nicole Stewart 86. Collaborative Artist Ryder Richards 85. Party Planning Print maker Raymond Butler 84. Avant-gardist Publisher Javier Valadez 83. Movie Nerd James Wallace 82. Artistic Tastemakers Elissa & Erin Stafford 81. Pioneering Arts Advocates Mark Lowry & Michael Warner 80. Imaginative Director Jeremy Bartel 79. Behind-the-Scenes Teacher Rachel Hull 78. Kaleidoscopic Artist Taylor "Effin" Cleveland 77. Filmmaker & Environmentalist Michael Cain 76. Music Activist Salim Nourallah 75. Underground Entrepreneur Daniel Yanez 74. Original Talent Celia Eberle 73. Comic Artist Aaron Aryanpur 72. Classical Thespian Raphael Parry 71. Dance Captain Valerie Shelton Tabor 70. Underground Culture Mainstay Karen X. Minzer 69. Effervescent Gallerist Brandy Michele Adams 68. Birthday Party Enthusiast Paige Chenault 67. Community Architect Monica Diodati 66. Intrepid Publisher Will Evans 65. Writerly Wit Noa Gavin 64. Maverick Artist Roberto Munguia 63. Fresh Perspective Kelsey Leigh Ervi 62. Virtuosic Violinist Nathan Olson 61. Open Classical's Dynamic Duo Mark Landson & Patricia Yakesch 60. Rising Talent Michelle Rawlings 59. Adventurous Filmmaker Toby Halbrooks 58. Man of Mystery Edward Ruiz 57. Inquisitive Sculptor Val Curry 56. Offbeat Intellect Thomas Riccio 55. Doers and Makers Shannon Driscoll & Kayli House Cusick 54. Performance Pioneer Katherine Owens 53. Experimental Filmmaker and Video Artist Mike Morris 52. Flowering Fashioner Lucy Dang 51. Insightful Artist Stephen Lapthisophon 50. Dallas Arts District
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