Above, Amanda Vanhooizer, founder of the Coppell Farmers Market, is ready to dig into her new job as director of market operations at Dallas Farmers Market. Courtesy of Dallas Farmers Market.
April 7, 2015
By Julie Thibodeaux
For more than 15 years, Amanda Vanhoozier was the green visionary for the city of Coppell. As its community programs manager, she launched the city’s first community garden and farmers market. During her tenure, she helped develop Keep Coppell Beautiful, the Biodiversity Education Center as well as the city's first green team and environmental management system.
Now she’s taking her green passion to Big D as the new director of market operations for the Dallas Farmers Market, the largest farmers market in North Texas.
“I have a tendency in my life to always think about the next step and the next step for me was to reach more people,” said Vanhoozier, who took over the new role in February.
Vanhoozier will talk about the Dallas Farmers Market’s new sustainable mission at Earth Day Texas on Sunday, April 26, at 4:30 pm at Centenniel Hall at Fair Park, as part of the expo’s Green Speaker Series.
Vanhoozier said her love of nature and gardening began as a child growing up in Wyoming, near Yellowstone National Park.
“I lived outside,” said Vanhoozier.
In the 1970s, she discovered Rodale’s organic gardening books. The guides opened up a new eco-friendly world and eventually inspired her to become an environmental educator. She quickly discovered that gardens made the best classrooms, where she could translate environmental lessons into real-life experience. That's something she wants to bring to the Dallas Farmers Market.
"I’m looking at doing a teaching garden, so when school tours come in, we'll have that education piece."
One of the unique assets she brings to the Dallas Farmers Market is her own experience with gardening. A lifelong organic gardener, Vanhoozier maintains a 40-foot-by-40-foot plot in her backyard in Coppell, where she grew greens, carrots, radishes and broccoli last winter and has tomatoes, peppers and asparagus in the ground this spring. If gives her a unique perspective, that many Farmers Market directors don’t have. She’s experienced the ups and downs of gardening.
“I have empathy,” she said, with a laugh.
She also has an eye for good produce and wants to improve the quality of the market's offerings, which is in line with a major revamping of the venue.
The Dallas Farmers Market was managed by the city until 2013 when DF Market Holdings bought it with plans for redeveloping it with restaurants, shops, a park and luxury housing.
With construction begun, Vanhoozier said she expects the renovations done by 2017.
Right, the master plan for Dallas Farmers Market includes adding residential, shopping, dining and a park. See larger version.
In the meantime, she’s already at work changing the market’s culture to meet a more environmentally savvy customer.
One of the biggest complaints she’s heard about the market is it doesn’t have enough local farmers. Currently, six days a week, produce dealers sell their conventionally grown produce at cheap prices. As a result, local farmers who sell chemical-free produce at higher prices have been reluctant to sell at the venue, saying they couldn’t compete with the big dealers.
Starting this summer, those dealers will only be there on Mondays and Fridays. Meanwhile, Vanhoozier is already working with partner Grow North Texas to recruit local farmers to set up their stands the rest of the week, excluding Wednesday when the market is closed.
In the coming months, the Dallas Farmers Market will be recruiting more local farmers to sell at the venue. Courtesy of DFM.
As for organic produce, Vanhoozier said none of their local farmers are certified organic, however many practice chemical free farming.
“[Getting certified] is not something many small farmers do,” said Vanhoozier, who was secretary for the Texas Organic Farmers and Gardeners Association’s board.
However, she said a new generation of farmers is more sustainable.
“They’re younger. They’re trying those methods. They’re well read. They’re all connected and communicate through a Yahoo group.”
In addition, she plans to reduce the number of single-use bags being handed out at the market, with ambition to do away with them entirely.
“We have wagons that people use. There is a group that makes recycled bags that we want to start selling.”
She said she'll also be looking at implementing an environmental management system so she can track energy efficiency and the market's carbon footprint.
But first she wants to entice more people living and working in downtown Dallas to walk to and shop at the market. She said people need a model for how to live differently and Dallas Farmers Market can be that model.
“I think I’m changing a culture and shifting a paradigm here.”