Sanger Farmers Market to start in March
A Farmers Market permit was unanimously approved, recently, by the City Council to be located at Stephen Baker Field, starting in March. This has been a vision of Amber Whitworth - Spigner.
“When I first started being introduced to agriculture through my husband (Garrett Spigner) - who has a career in agriculture, I never did comprehend the amount of consistent hard work and dedication that people put into making their operations successful. As I became more involved in agriculture I realized that the amount of family farms is dwindling on a national, state and county level,” said Amber. “I’ve seen firsthand the struggle with the rise of prices on fuel, fertilizers, feed, and various other input costs. Other struggles include labor shortages, loss of land and lack of trust from the consumer. Many family farms are shutting down due to these hardships. As more goods become readily available and convenient by commercial farms or foreign trade, less people know where their food comes from, how it's made or even the amount of time that it takes to produce a good. I’ve talked to so many farmers around the state about all of these things and the frustrations that come from them.”
All of these things inspired the creation of Downtown Sanger Farmers Market. “There is something humbling about meeting the farmer who took the time and energy to care for the product and learning all about the process it took to get it to the consumer.”
Amber said he approval to start the market however was quite the journey. “I reached out to the Development Services Director, Ramie Hammonds on March 3, 2022 asking if I could set up a meeting with her as I wanted to see what the process would be to get this started.” They met in April, Hammonds was very agreeable to the project and walked Amber through the process of filling out the permits to get it started.
Originally, the plan was to have the market downtown in the empty lot off the square. “When I submitted the permits however, I was told that due to the zone the land is located on there is a restriction stating that outside sales are not allowed, which unfortunately included farmers markets. After she (Hammonds) told me about this, we went through all the other permit options possible- special use permits, special event permits… nothing would legally work.
“Since that was a dead end, I then reached out to the City Secretary and got all the information I could about speaking to the City Council. I went to a City Council meeting in June and spoke at the beginning --when the community was allowed to speak-- and told them all about what I was wanting to do and the issues that I was having and wanted to see if this was something they could help me with. I was told that the appropriate person would review it and get back to me. Well, they got back to me, and it was still a ‘no’ at that location. At this point I wanted to get the subject on the agenda for the City Council so we could discuss the restriction.”
So, Amber reached back out to the City Secretary to figure out how she could get this topic on the agenda to “overthrow” the stipulation that was preventing me from having the market at that location. “She stated that I would need to have two Council members vote to place it on the agenda. So I took to Facebook asking for any City Council member to message me. That’s when Mr. Victor Gann messaged me. I let him know what was happening and he was very helpful in looking at zones with me and finding a place that would work.”
Gann had suggested a few churches which Amber had already reached out to and then he eventually gave her the email for Sanger Superintendent Dr. Tommy Hunter with Sanger ISD. “I had a meeting with the deputy superintendent in September and we discussed my plans and the use of Stephen Baker Field as the potential location of the market. Eventually, the school district approved it at Stephen Baker Field with a few stipulations and I got to work on completing the special use permit with the city,” stated Amber.
A site plan was drawn up, letter intent was created and the permit was submitted October 7th with the city. It was approved at the planning and zoning committee November 14th and then after much discussion was approved with stipulations at City Council on December 5th.
“Overall it's been a very long journey to get here but I am so excited that we have it! The plan is to have the market every first and third weekend (so Saturday and Sunday) of the month starting in March and ending in December. We will start selling at 8 am to 12 pm on Saturday and from 9 to 1 on Sunday. I wanted to make this market ‘consumer friendly’ in that we have multiple days people can come buy for those who have to work on Saturdays and otherwise wouldn’t be able to make it.”
Amber said they will strive to be an 80% agriculture/20% producer-made market where 80% of the market is farmers and ranchers and 20% are small businesses that hand make their items. She said there will not be any food trucks and concessions at the market– this was one of the stipulations in the agreement that was signed with Sanger ISD.
“I have many things planned for the market and I’m excited for all of them. I’ve already reached out to the Texas Department of Agriculture and discussed making it a Certified Farmers Market so we can accept WIC and SNAP benefits–this will happen as soon as we have become more established. I’ve applied to be a GoTexan partner in the meantime. The opening weekend will be March 18th and 19th– I already have Texas Farm Bureau’s mobile learning barn booked.”
She said no vendors have been booked as of yet because she hasn’t finished her website. “The website was promised to be finished January 9th, by the designer. Once it’s finished vendors should be able to go on the website, read the vendor handbook and fill out the application.”