On a recent, rainy Sunday, as vendors struggled to keep their tent awnings awninged and their products dry, a handful of people perused the offerings at Little D Farmers Market under cover of umbrellas. It was a small day for a growing farmers market that opened in April, hoping to bring local produce and other product to an area of Dallas where those things are hard to find.
Little D is the creation of Monica Diodati, who's also behind the quarterly Design District Market. Diodati credits her day job in real estate with helping her "realize the potential of underutilized spaces." So when the developers of Trinity Groves, a mixed-use development still in its neonatal phase, agreed to let Diodati use the tree-flanked space in front of the Groves' shops and eateries, she set to work. The impetus behind Little D, says Diodati, is that "we needed more markets on this side of the river."
It is not only Little D's location that sets it apart from other local markets, but the fact that it is open on the first three Sundays of every month. With the exception of the Dallas Farmers Market, most markets are open on Saturdays, making Little D the perfect spot for vegetable-worshippers to congregate and worship their God: the locally-sourced rutabaga. All vendors are required to be from within 150 miles of the market, Diodati says.
Having not been to Little D before, I asked Diodati if what I was seeing was an accurate representation, considering the weather. Surveying the dozen-or-so stalls and the crowd, she said about half of her regular stalls had shown up. As for the patrons, well, "It's getting off to a slow start but it's only been open a few months."
Things may seem to be dragging to Diodati, but for vendor Paul Wackym, Little D has provided a much-welcomed outlet for his business, Wackym's Kitchen. Wackym's has been churning out quarter-sized, crunchy cookies for six years and stocked on Central Market store shelves for the past four, but he relies on Little D now, too.
"This kind of market still supports our business," he told me Sunday. "The first day I was here it was pouring rain but I did really, really well."
Wackym attributes his success at Little D to the fact that his customer-base isn't just comprised of one-offs but repeat customers: "Farmers markets become part of people's routine."
It takes but a couple bites to taste why someone would want to incorporate Wackym's offerings -- notably the rosemary-laced cornmeal shortbread, salted-caramel cookie and savory and Hatch chili-studded cheese nibble -- into their Sunday ritual. With a belly full of Wackym's delicious cookies, I ventured off to explore the other stalls.
Two farms, Baugh and Demases, were both had the best of their crops on display. Baugh's had baskets of tomatoes, purple-tinged, semi-grotesque heirloom varieties for the yuppies and red, round ones for people who wear flannel for warmth, not fashion. There were zephyr squash, with their long, yellow necks and variegated green bottoms. Sitting atop the table were also gorgeous green and purple cabbages whose fate, with any luck, will not include an Anne Geddes photo-shoot.
The young man who was posted up behind the table at Demases' stall could have been a poster-boy for Ralph Lauren's new line inspired by rural America. His pattypans were a thing of beauty. His squash weren't bad either. He had stacks of slender, young carrots, bunches of beets and enough kale to keep the J. Crew crowd from rioting.
Then there was Just Pie, the stall tended to by crust-maker Melvin Arnold. Arnold is an affable guy with large hands and fingers the size of baby zucchini, all the better for crimping pie crusts. Arnold's wife and daughter make the fillings, and together this family makes some award-winning pies. Both their buttermilk and French berry custard pies are favorites at the Texas state fair. And their green tomato pie? Wars have been waged over baked goods of lesser caliber.
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Finally, there was Stan Miklis, who owns Caliper Farms. Miklis has been obsessed with horticulture since the age of 14. He nurtures all manner of flora, though his specialty is herbs.
It's easy to find fresh herbs nowadays, but if you want herbs that were grown by a true devotee then you've got to come see Stan. He's an herb roadie. If Tarragon and Basil had a reunion tour, Stan would follow them from gig to gig, laying down hoses and doing sound-checks. As Stan says, "Herbs are my spirit."
Another stall you will definitely want to loiter in the vicinity of is Lucido's Pasta and Herbs, where you can pick up a package of mini, multi-colored bowtie pastas (pro-tip: these are a must have for Montessori school projects), thick, yellow bands of egg noodles, or their most popular flavor, garlic and basil, which is wound into little birds nests.
Even if you aren't a "farmers market kind of person," Little D may be able to weave its way into your Sunday routine. As you stroll down the gravel-lined path and vendors smile and beckon you toward to their tables, you may find yourself thinking how nice this is. Nice, because folks on the other side of the river have convenient access to local produce and artisanal goods. Nice, because it's a Sunday. Nice, because there was no shortage of kale, so you didn't have to set a car on fire.