Fig Trees to Farmers Market
By 12:30 every Saturday afternoon, Peach Street in Angleton, Texas returns to the quiet off-the-beaten-path throughway for commuters trying to avoid traffic lights in the area. But before that, this mostly ignored side-street transforms into a major thoroughfare for Peach Street Farmers Market (PSFM), a new Episcopal community. The weekly market draws hundreds of people who otherwise would have no inclination to venture onto church grounds.
PSFM’s strives to create an environment where people can connect with area farmers, local businesses and each other through education, commerce and entertainment, by building community seeking to improve the health and wellness in Brazoria County. We believe that as servants of Christ, we are called to serve Christ in one another. It’s important that Holy Comforter Episcopal Church (HCEC) be the catalyst, not the facilitator of PSFM. We do not seek to make Episcopalians; we simply host and seek to serve our neighbors, whomever God draws to the street. Even the market's governing board is ecumenical.
The morning ritual of setting up and tearing down the market, now a mainstay each Saturday, was a long time in the making. Opening day was the embodiment of a two-year swath of heavenly affirmations, from two people bravely voicing their desires, to the first organized community meeting, to the pitches before the local Chamber of Commerce, to the partnership of the City Council and mayor, helping us optimize success step by step. God was guiding the process, honing the dream with countless refining meetings and emails and phone conversations with all necessary parties inside and outside of the parish until the dream had taken beautiful shape into something just about everyone owned in some way.
The market would be a significant undertaking for any parish, let alone one the size of Holy Comforter. We potentially have more people peruse the market on one Saturday than worship in a month, which is why we felt it worthy of our efforts. Yet the market is not without precedent. From feeding the town from our fig trees during both World Wars, to the masses flocking to the church for Tex-Mex, BBQ, and fish fry outreach meals, HCEC enjoys taking care of Angleton with hospitality and food. A farmers’ market seemed a natural step for us. Whereas most of what we do is seasonal, now Holy Comforter’s offering is weekly, calling the city and beyond to convene on Peach Street to enjoy the next incarnation of our culinary hospitality.
The grand idea of the market is more than a weekly communion outside the walls of the parish; it is the first step in a larger hope of helping Angleton spread its entrepreneurial wings. Rather than making money for itself, we focus on building relationship with our vendors and our patrons. We hope for our business partners’ success in providing healthy and interesting things to sell and for our guests to find interesting and helpful things to buy. Even on days when things are slow, we consider the down time any opportunity for us to build real connections with vendors and supporters alike. And it’s working.
There is a distinct vibe of hospitality that we enjoy, for which the priest is most proud. Success is not solely judged by dollars earned and chickens sold, but by meaningful time spent with each other. As hosts of the market, our goals are clear: grow the market by making our vendors feel valued and offer a welcoming and loving experience to whomever God draws to this space.
Since August 2017, PSFM has surpassed all expectations. At this point, we host double the vendors initially projected with more patrons than anticipated, which has quickened our pace to the second phase of the overall dream: food trucks and mobile vendors.
Currently Angleton has no mechanism for grease disposal nor does it have a community commissary, two things the city simply cannot afford. In partnership with the city, the market is in the beginning stages of providing both items, making local entrepreneurship all the more prevalent mid-week. Our driving assumption being that our market could be used by some as the starting point for a growing and thriving business, from Market booth, to food truck to one day local brick and mortar success stories lining a revitalized downtown. All because a little Episcopal church took the chance on what God was already doing in Angleton.
The Rev. Travis Smith is rector of Holy Comforter Episcopal Church, Angleton. The Peach Street Farmers Market is every Saturday from 8AM-12PM. Learn more here.