A Festival of Food and Fun


Fresh flowers are just one of the many offerings at the Farmer’s Market at Imperial. Photos courtesy of the Farmers Market at Imperial.

COVER STORY | By S. Barot –

Welcome to the Farmers Market at Imperial! Hosted every Saturday by the Fort Bend Chamber of Commerce near the old Imperial Sugar Factory, shoppers at the year-round market will find fresh, locally grown and prepared produce, meats and cheeses, baked goods, prepared foods, bath and body products, flowers, one-of-a-kind artisan crafts and food trucks.


Humble Beginnings


In addition to local goods, the Market offers a variety of global treats.

The Market was the brainchild of Susie Goff, former marketing director of residential and commercial real estate developer Johnson Development. Her objective in 2011 was to bring citizens’ attention to Johnson Development’s forthcoming master planned, mixed-use Imperial Development.

“The area, at that time, was just a pavilion and parking lot,” said Goff. “It was such a great location, and we wanted people to be mindful of the upcoming development. When we started thinking about what to do with the property, a farmers market was the obvious choice.”

Goff added a major component to adding a farmers market was that there was nothing akin to it in the area. The idea of a farmers market was a fabulous, family-friendly addition to Fort Bend County. “It just took off from the day that we first started it,” said Goff. “It was an instant hit. The Market served a need for the community and the forthcoming development.”

Kim Broom, the first and only serving market manager, said the Market continues to be an integral part of the community. At present, there are 35 to 60 vendors that rotate throughout the year and there is a current wait list to be featured in the Market. To potentially bypass the wait list, a vendor must have a special item that isn’t already in the Market. The produce or product must be inventive, unusual and catch the eye of staff.


Shop Local, Eat Local, Support Local


From lettuces, kale, blueberries and sweet potatoes to beef, free-range chickens, eggs and herbs, the Farmers Market at Imperial has it all! The vendors live and operate within 150 miles of Fort Bend County. It’s certified “Go Texan,” which means all of the vendors are primarily Texas-based. Broom says the Market has two main types of vendors for produce: those who have a large selection and a variety of produce and others, which are focused on a specific but sizeable crop.

Additionally, the vendors all have a close working relationship with Broom, who in turn ensures that they are selling organic, homegrown and homemade items. Shoppers should rest assured they are eating locally grown, quality foods and are buying locally made arts and crafts.

While many open-air markets are specialized, Broom said the Market has “a bit of everything.” In addition to produce, the Market offers small-batch sauces and condiments from various countries, as well as baked goods. Beyond food, the Market serves as an area to showcase and sell local arts and crafts. It also serves as a place to commune and connect with neighbors. Because of such a diverse population of vendors and shoppers, Broom said she can almost guarantee that every visitor will find someone they already know.

Buying fresh fruits and veggies from the Market helps support local businesses.

“The Market provides an opportunity for the farmers and vendors to generate an income,” said Keri Schmidt, president and chief executive officer of the Fort Bend Chamber of Commerce. “It also provides a gathering place for the community in a site that has much history and significance to our residents.”

The Market provides exposure for some vendors. Many have launched storefronts and restaurants and have proceeded to have their items sold at HEB. Fort Bend Coffee Roasters – a small craft coffee roasting company – got its start at the Market and is now also sold in coffee shops, bakeries and restaurants in the area.

“Seeing these people with ideas take off from the Market is the fun part,” said Broom. “We’ve had restaurants and even cooking show contestants launched from the Market. Because of their success here, sometimes our vendors go on to qualify for other markets that may be tougher to get into.”

Broom believes this is just the beginning and the Market will continue to grow and flourish. She hopes the Market’s final destination will be the promenade area in the shopping district of the Imperial development. Until then, vendors will continue to sell and showcase their products to area residents under the old Imperial Sugar Factory, located at 198 Kempner Street in Sugar Land.

“We look forward to the evolution of the Market as Imperial is developed,” added Schmidt. “The Farmers Market at Imperial is an integral part of the redevelopment plan and we expect that the historic Sugar Factory will become another great destination for visitors from all over the region.”

For more information, visit www.imperialfarmersmarket.com.


FARMERS MARKET AT IMPERIAL RECIPES


Spinach Beet Salad with Goat Cheese and Caramelized Pecans

Ingredients:

  • 2 Red beets, cooked, peeled and sliced
  • 8 Cups loosely packed baby spinach leaves
  • 1/2 Cup goat cheese
  • 3/4 Cup caramelized Texas pecans, whole
  • 1/4 Cup dried cherries, finely diced
  • 1 Cup balsamic dressing

Ingredients for the Balsamic Dressing:

  • 1/4 cup plus 1 T.  Balsamic vinegar
  • 1/4 Teaspoon garlic, finely chopped
  • 1/2 Cup red beets, chopped
  • 1/2 Cup Texas extra virgin olive oil
  • Salt to taste

To Prepare:

To cook beets: Place beets in boiling water and cook for 20 to 30 minutes or until cooked through like a potato. Remove beets from the water and let them cool for 20 minutes. Remove the skins using a paper towel. Refrigerate until ready to use.

To prepare the caramelized pecans: Heat pecans in medium sauté pan in sugar, butter, water and salt mixture and cook until water has evaporated. Transfer to a baking sheet and bake in 275° F. oven for 15 minutes or until very crunchy. Yields 1 cup.

To prepare salad: In a bowl, toss spinach with just enough dressing to coat the leaves. Divide onto six plates and garnish with dollops of goat cheese, sliced beets, Texas pecans and dried cherries.


Pecan Orange Cake with Blueberries

Ingredients:

  • 6 Tablespoons butter
  • 1 Cup cake flour
  • 3/4 Cup sugar
  • 2 Eggs
  • 1-1/2 Teaspoons orange vanilla
  • 3/4 Teaspoons baking powder
  • 1/2 Teaspoons baking soda
  • Zest of 2 oranges
  • 1 Pint Texas blueberries, for garnish
  • 1/2 Cup Texas pecans, whole, roasted for garnish

Ingredients for Whipping Cream:

  • 1 Cup heavy whipping cream
  • 1/4 Cup sugar

To Prepare Pecan Orange Cake:

Preheat oven to 325° F. Butter and flour a 9-inch baking pan. In a mixer, combine butter and sugar. Mix for 3 minutes, adding 1 egg at a time and then add orange vanilla, flour, baking powder and baking soda. Transfer to baking pan and bake for 25 minutes or until done.

To Prepare Whipping Cream:

In a bowl, whip cream until stiff and fold in sugar. Divide cake evenly onto six plates and garnish with whipped cream, pecans and blueberries.


Cheese Fondue with Fresh Vegetables

Ingredients:

  • 1 Cup dry white wine
  • 2 Tablespoons all-purpose flour
  • 1 Teaspoon fresh lemon juice
  • ½ Teaspoon garlic powder
  • ¼ Teaspoon dry mustard
  • ½ pound Swiss cheese, shredded
  • ½ pound Gruyere cheese, shredded
  • ½ Teaspoon Worcestershire sauce
  • Fresh vegetables for dipping: broccoli, yellow squash, red peppers, carrots and mushrooms

To Prepare:

Simmer wine in fondue pot. In a large bowl, toss the shredded cheese with the flour to coat well. Add cheese gradually, about ¼ pound at a time; stir after each addition of the cheese until melted. Add seasonings; stir until smooth and creamy. Serve with fresh vegetables for dipping. Enjoy!