SAN JUAN — As springtime temperatures rise, one more sale will mark the end of another season of the only organic farmers market in South Texas, according to a horticulturist with the Texas AgriLife Extension Service.
“It’s just too hot at this time of year to grow any more vegetables,” said AgriLife Extension’s Barbara Storz. “After Saturday’s sale, we’ll pull up our vegetable plants and replace them with a cover crop until late summer.”
The sale will be held from 9 a.m.-1 p.m May 16 at North San Juan Park, 511 E. Earling (the Nolana extension) between Raul Longoria and Cesar Chavez roads, about two miles east of U.S. Highway 281. Admission is free.
The farmers market, closing out its second year, is a creation of Grow’n Growers, an AgriLife Extension program organized by Storz. The program teaches low-income residents how to grow organic vegetables on their own properties, then sell them to the public.
Fifteen families who joined the program organized a farmers’ cooperative known as Familias Productores del Valle, or Family Producers of the Valley, and their success is beginning to draw national attention, Storz said.
"It’s been a lot of work and our success is getting a lot of publicity in national publications, including an article last week in a magazine that goes to extension agents all over the country," she said. "In fact, I’ve been asked to speak about our experiences at conferences in Kansas, Oklahoma and Texas.”
Even the big-box grocery store chains are calling, Storz said.
“They’re interested in selling our organic products, but we can’t produce enough vegetables to keep them supplied. Not yet, anyway. But we’ll get there,” she said.
Saturday’s season-closing event will have the usual large variety of organic vegetables for sale, Storz said.
“African red okra, several types of squash, lots of different herbs, red onions, tomatoes, Swiss shard, peppers, lettuce, red-leaf lettuce, plus lots of others I’ve probably forgotten to mention. Oh, and we’ll also have one lady selling organically made bath soap.”
After the sale, Storz said, a cover crop will replace the vegetable plants in the mostly backyard planting beds.
“We’ll pull up everything except the okra plants,” she said. “Then we’ll plant lablab, which is a bean crop that puts a lot of nitrogen into the soil. It’s called a green manure crop.”
While the lablab is flowering, usually in mid- to late-August, it is tilled into the soil where it's left to break down for about two weeks, Storz said.
“We’ll add compost as a top-dressing to the now-fertilized soil, then start planting seeds and seedlings in September.”
Storz said she expects the first fall organic farmers market will be held the third Saturday of November.
“We’re hoping to have a sale every first and third Saturday of each month next season,” she said. “If anybody is interested in joining, we’ll start our organic vegetable classes in August in San Juan and Alamo.”
For more information on the farmers market, contact Storz at 956-383-1026, or e-mail BStorz@ag.tamu.edu .
For information on planting a vegetable garden and planting dates, visit her Web site at http://www.hidalgo-tx.tamu.edu/ .