Local vendors sell fresh fruits and vegetables at Freedmen's Town Farmers Market. (Photo by Priscilla T. Graham).
Congressman Al Green presents Sade Perkins with a Certificate of Congressional Recognition for her efforts to make food more accessible to the residents of Houston's oldest Black neighborhood, Freedmen's Town. (Photo by Priscilla T. Graham).
A grassy lot in between houses in Freedmen's Town hosts a a new weekly farmers market.
Local vendors at Freedmen's Town Farmers Market are selling fresh fruits and veggies. (Photo by Priscilla T. Graham).
Located in a long grassy lot, sandwiched between two tall houses, you’ll find the entrance to Houston’s newest farmers market. Freedmen’s Town Farmers Market was created to serve the neighborhood it calls home. Having just completed its third weekend, it’s already making a mark in Houston’s oldest Black neighborhood.
Sade Perkins, founder of Freedmen’s Town Farmers Market, greets everyone who enters the grassy field full of fresh produce and vendor-made goods. Perkins’ genuine mask-clad smile provided a warm welcome on a cloudy Saturday morning. The colder weather wasn’t enough to stop people from strolling the market, going from vendor tent to vendor tent. Houstonians came out to purchase fresh goods and meet a neighbor or two in the process.
Perkins talked to PaperCity in-between greeting neighbors and helping vendors get set up.
“This area is a food desert and when I realized that I was like ‘Well OK, how can I bring fresh foods and things like that?’ ” Perkins says. “Because it’s not only a food desert, but there’s also. . . Have you ever heard of the term food swamp? We’re not even that.”
Yes, Perkins is fighting a true food desert scenario in this Fourth Ward section of Houston.
“A food swamp is when you don’t have a grocery store, but you have McDonald’s and KFC and you have those things,” Perkins explains. “We don’t even have that. We’re literally a desert. So I felt like you know, why not? Why not try to find something that brings entrepreneurs out here and then also something for the community to come together. It’s a very mixed-income neighborhood.
“It is becoming more gentrified and what not, but at the same time it’s like OK, well if we can find a place that we can get to know your neighbors and for people to come together. I hope that this can be that watering hole, that communal event.”
The closest grocery store to the neighborhood is a good 30-minute walk away.
Inclusivity and making sure that everyone in the mixed-income neighborhood of Freedmen’s Town has access to groceries is helping drive this new farmers market. Perkins is also working to get the market SNAP approved so purchases can be made by those in the federal government’s food assistance program (which is more people than ever in these COVID-19 times).
“Working on it, it’s a process but yeah, and that’s just going back to the fact that it’s mixed-income,” Perkins says. “And we want to make sure that people who need access to this actually have it. There are two senior living facilities in the neighborhood. There are also some low-income apartments. There’s a little bit of everything so we just want to make sure that everyone can come and participate.”
Freedmen’s Town is located under the shadows of Downtown Houston’s towering skyscrapers and is comprised of households of all different types. There are no grocery stores or even fast-food places nearby as Perkins detailed. The new farmers market, surrounded by tall two- and three-story homes, provides a little oasis of fresh produce and goods that are otherwise hard to come by in the neighborhood.
Music plays as people browse from stall-to-stall to get some shopping done. The Freedmen’s Town Farmers Market brings fresh fruits and veggies, homemade bread, local honey and tasty baked goods such as pecan pralines and packs of homemade cookies from family-owned small businesses.
Besides food, there are also stalls with beautiful handmade jewelry, oils, body scrubs and butters — and even a stall that resells vintage clothes.
“Since it’s a farmers market I want to try to keep it mostly food oriented, but I want to have a little bit of artisans mixed in as well just to have some variety,” Perkins tells PaperCity.
The Freedmen’s Town Farmers Market will now take place every Saturday from 9 am until 2 pm at 1320 Robin Street, near the historic St. James United Methodist Church.