The road to Wednesday’s ceremonial groundbreaking at the future new home of the Brownsville Farmers’ Market and Food Bank of the Rio Grande Valley in Brownsville starts back in 2008.
City Commissioner At-Large “B” Rose M.Z. Gowen recalled the history during remarks in front of the sizable crowd assembled for the event, held at the entrance to the battered Quonset hut at the corner of East 6th and East Ringgold streets that will be transformed over the next year into The Cannery Public Market at a cost of about $4 million.
It was in 2008 that two professors with the UTHealth School of Public Health in Brownsville, Susan Fisher-Hoch M.D. and Belinda Reininger (now dean), discovered very high rates of diabetes and other obesity-related disease in the local population — much higher, in fact, than any other Hispanic population in the country, Gowen said.
Dr. Rose Gowen, Commissioner At-Large “B”, addresses the crowd about the work that went into getting to the groundbreaking Wednesday at the official groundbreaking and kick-off for the renovation of the Cannery warehouse into the Cannery Public Market off 6th and Ringgold Street. (Denise Cathey/The Brownsville Herald)
Brownsville hadn’t had a farmers market in a long, long time, and Reininger and Fisher-Hoch felt strongly that a new one was called for in order to get healthy, affordable fresh fruits and vegetables to residents and lower the diabetes rate, said Gowen, who was among the handful of people in on the initial brainstorming sessions. Within a year some 200 people wanted to be part of making it happen, she said.
But first ensued a disagreement with city’s parks department over where to put the market. Gowen said it was then she realized the project needed somebody on the inside, so she ran for city commission and won.
“I thought there shouldn’t be a fight about this,” she said. “It’s not hard, it’s not complicated. It’s fresh food, for God’s sake.”
The Brownsville Farmers’ Market opened for business on a patch of concrete in Linear Park, still its home today, at least for another year.
“We had only six vendors,” Gowen said. “We sold 50 dozen farm eggs in 20 minutes, and all the vendors sold out within 30 minutes. Some vendors left to rent more land on that same day because they knew this was going to be market they could make money at. The cool thing was that the people, the shoppers, did not leave the park. They stayed and they talked to each other and there was a community spirit that was built that day, and Linear Park was activated.”
The old Cannery warehouse is pictured Wednesday …….