Kingwood Farmers Market seeks rebirth after leadership, marketing switch-ups
Changes are setting up shop at the Kingwood Farmers Market — the event is getting a new owner and direction.
The Lake Houston Area Chamber of Commerce announced Oct. 30 that it will hand over ownership of the market to Town Center Park Association.
The Chamber had hosted the market every Thursday since 2010.
“As we are a nonprofit, our resources are limited and our board has the responsibility of being good stewards with our members’ investments in our organization.” said Jenna Armstrong, the Chamber’s CEO, in the press release. “While considering the Kingwood Farmers Market it became clear that an association such as Town Center Park could do a better job of growing and enhancing the market due to the association’s focus, physical location and availability of resources.”
The association’s director, Tony Austin said the change was expected as the chamber alters its focus toward macro-level businesses and the market doesn’t fit that category. The Kingwood resident of 20 years also added that the initial plan was to excise the market due to declining sales.
“But if I let it go we won’t get it back,” he said. “So I’ve got to hang onto it and try to build it.”
There were about “18 to 20” vendors at the farmers market, Austin recalled, but then Hurricane Harvey hit Kingwood and ousted everything quantifiable — business owners, attendees and revenue. He said that, although more time is still needed, the moment when the market reclaims its pre-Harvey heyday will come.
“By the end of January, that’s the plan,” he said.
Until then, Austin said he’s trying out a medley of methods to both draw vendors in — for the rest of November they, familiars or not, won’t have to pay any fees — and to get the word out — a food truck, movie night, quid-pro-quo publicity effort with nearby businesses, blog posts profiling sellers and an active social media page are a few examples.
The latter is what Austin currently invests most of his efforts in. Aside from being able to broadcast or re-broadcast content at speed to a substantial crowd, it will also give Kingwood an edge over other areas that can also host farmer markets, he said.
“I’m trying to get into a regimen of at least two postings a week, [one] early in the week to say ‘Hey, this is what’s coming up’ and then on Thursday we’ll say what’s happening today,” Austin said. “The plan is to try to grow the vendors, and if I can grow the vendors then I can grow the audience.”
‘Don’t forget the market!’
Cindy Larsen, whose business Cindy’s Southern Jam is one of the vendors who came to Thursday’s farmers market, the first not hosted by the Lake Houston Chamber of Commerce, welcomed Austin’s social-media push.
“It’s the thing to do today, the modern way of getting word out,” she said. “You can touch all levels of generation with whichever social media platform you choose to use.”
Sugar Land-based Shelly Smith, owner of pet food store Bones on the Go!, also liked the approach.
“I’ve noticed even with my other markets that when they step up their social media, we get more people out,” she said. “A lot of people don’t know that [the farmers market is] even here.”
Laurie Polomsky, owner of the custom cookie bakery Sugar Happiness, believes that going social will certainly benefit to the market in the future.
“I think it’s a great way to communicate,” said Polomsky, who also goes by the moniker “The Happy Baker.” “Let people know what we have, why we’re here and what we’re doing.”
Regarding the turnout, of both vendors and customers, for this event, Austin thought it was “OK.” Still, he has faith that what’s around the corner is the very growth to revitalize Kingwood Farmers Market.
“I really appreciate the vendors hanging in there with me as well and I really thought Kingwood would eat it up — I think they would if they remembered,” he said. “I have so many people who’d say to me over the weekend, ‘Man, I forgot the market again!’ and then I’d say, ‘Don’t forget the market! It’s on a Thursday, it’s been there for eight years.’”