Thursday, October 11, 2012

An Interview: Heather Hunter of Quarry Farmers & Ranchers Market

I am thrilled to add a new component to Fete! It is time for Fete to invite more voices!  In addition to awesome guest bloggers...I have had the privilege of interviewing some EXTRAORDINARY people!

Here's to my inaugural interview with....

...Heather Hunter from Quarry Farmers & Ranchers Market!

What was the inspiration for the Quarry Farmers & Ranchers Market?

We didn’t like the other farmers markets in town and felt there was a need for a real farmers market with high standards and one that actually supported only small, local farmers, ranchers and producers of artisan foods.
How long, from idea to inception?  

We started thinking about this in September 2010 and opening day was May 1, 2011.

What obstacles did you encounter?  

Actually, we got great cooperation from the Quarry Market and Whole Foods Market. However, due to all the contractual relationships that existed, we just needed to sort through all of the details so that everybody was happy with the outcome.

What great people did you meet along the way?

The Whole Foods staff that worked on this in the Austin office were great and the general manager of the Quarry Market was also supportive and helped put this together.

All of the farmers, ranchers and artisan food producers that are currently selling at the market are truly inspirational people. They endure lots of challenges and difficulties considering the drought, excessive heat and other conditions that exist year-round in Texas—yet each and every week, they bring extraordinary products.
Who was your "rock" as you moved towards creating this possibility for yourself, and by extension, our community?

My husband, partner and best friend, F. David Lent, was the trailblazer in this project. It was his idea, he picked the location, he worked his magic with our partners and each and every week, he roams the market talking with our members and customers and continues to inspire, challenge and compliment people on their accomplishments.

What came first...Cowgirl Granola or Quarry Farmers & Ranchers Market?

Cowgirl Granola was born in May 2009. I always made Christmas baskets comprised of homemade goodies for friends and family and in 2001, I added granola to the mix. Each year, I would tweak the recipe a bit, adding a little more this or a little less that until I hit the jackpot.

Throughout the year, those who received my granola at the holidays would beg me to “make more granola.” And I would. It was Christmas 2008 and I sent a dinner guest home with a basket of goodies—granola being one of the items. He called me every day after that telling me how amazing the granola was and that I should make it to sell.

I was retired at the time and enjoying not working, but I told him I would think about it. And I did. For three months. Until one day I decided to give it a try. On Sunday, May 5, 2009, I went to a rinky-dink farmers market with two other vendors at Green Vegetarian Restaurant on N. Flores where I had 13 bags of granola. In less than two hours, I sold every bag. My husband looked at me and we both knew it was the start of another fun adventure.
Tell me about Cowgirl Granola....I want to know EVERYTHING!  When did you being making granola?  What inspired you to start making granola?  I LOVE the "Cowgirl" theme...what inspired you to give it a Texas twist?

Again, the name Cowgirl Granola was inspired by my husband, David. One night, he woke up at 3 am and the name came to him.

I think there are a number of nuances in the name, Yes, the granola is “ranch-crafted in Texas.” Yes, I am a fifth-generation Texan.

More than anything, once David came up with the name, I was inspired by a Dale Evans quote that I feel really gets to the heart of what Cowgirl Granola stands for:

“Cowgirl is an attitude, really; a pioneer spirit, a special American brand of courage. The cowgirl faces life head on, lives by her own lights and makes no excuses. Cowgirls take stands. They speak up. They defend the things they hold dear. A cowgirl might be a rancher, or a barrel racer, or a bull rider, or an actress. But she's just as likely to be a checker at the local Winn Dixie, a full-time mother, a banker, an attorney, or an astronaut."

If someone were interested in participating in your Sunday Morning Quarry Farmers & Ranchers Market as a vendor, how might they go about applying?  How is one eligible to participate..."local" "organic" "home made"....etc?  I know someone who makes a MEAN organic chocolate chip cookie! :) It's my very secret recipe!

We have a Vendor Selection Committee comprised of market members, board members and our partners who come together to discuss every application that is up for consideration. It is also mandatory that they be local and we sample whatever it is that the person wants to sell.

We ask ourselves: Is the product unique? Is the product something that people would want to buy? Is the product the best of the best? Is the product something that we don’t already have? Is the applicant going to fit well within our market and take care of our customers?

These are all questions that the committee answers and, collectively, we make a decision that we feel is best for the market.
What is your vision for Quarry Farmers & Ranchers Market?  Say...a year from now?  Two years from now?  

We are probably at maximum capacity concerning the space, so any kind of large expansion is probably not going to happen. We constantly work with our vendors to come up with new ideas and seasonal products as well as marketing strategies to help get the word out. It always amazes me how many people I meet that do not know the Quarry Farmers & Ranchers Market exists.

We also will strive to maintain our quality standards and excellent customer relations.

What makes the Quarry Farmers & Ranchers Market unique?

We have no desire to just “rent” booth space for economic purposes. We consider the market and our market members as a representative of who and what we are. I have been in the hospitality business for 10 years including owning a large resort in Mexico and am adamant about maintaining the same standards at our local farmers market as we do in our 5-star property.

We have so many great comments about the “energy” and the “spirit” of the market. And most of our members have become our friends and we often get together (over good food) to discuss the success of the market and the ways that we can improve it.

We have also served as an incubator for several “cottage-type” food artisans in launching their businesses and helping them move on to bigger and better things. For example, the new permanent location of Bakery Lorraine and their incredible success in just one year of being at the market.

My husband and I have been at every market since opening and have never missed one. I think our dedication and the fact that the “owners” are on-site is truly the key to ensuring success.

A HUGE thank you goes out to Heather Hunter and her husband F. David Lent.  I am honored that you both took the time to answer my questions with such honesty and thoughtfulness.


You can visit Quarry Farmers and Ranchers Market here.  And head to their Facebook page by clicking here.

Because everyone LOVES a little holiday cheer!
A few FABULOUS BLOGGERS have come together to bring you a great October Giveaway...
One lucky winner will win a 100 dollar gift card to Party City to grab those Halloween tricks and treats.

The Giveaway runs from September 18, 2012-October 13, 2012.

Open to the US only.

Click HERE to complete your entry!

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