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Farmers Market cultivates community relationships

It was a cold and drizzly day five years ago when the first Kingsville Farmers Market was held at the Downtown Pavilion on N. Sixth Street. Even with less-than-ideal conditions, an estimated 400 to 500 people braved the rainy weather to see what the new venture was all about.

"We were worried about that first market," Charlie Simons, manager of the Kingsville Farmers Market, said. "We were sweating it going in, but it worked out great and we had a huge turnout on a very cold, wet day."

Last Saturday, the weather was much more favorable as seasoned regulars and first-timers alike shopped for homegrown, homemade and handcrafted goods, crafts and wares on sale from more than dozens of area vendors celebrating the fifth anniversary of the monthly farmers market.

"It's very satisfying to have sustained a long and loyal following for the market," Simons said. "The community has been fantastic, as have the vendors and the City of Kingsville."

Simons said a big part of the market's success has been in having a diverse group of vendors who bring a variety of quality goods consistently every month.

"We still get about 35 to 40 vendors every month," he said. "And the public keeps coming back for more."

Homer Garza is one such vendor who has participated in the farmers market since day one. Known by the moniker "The Bee Man," the Riviera

native sells locally sourced honey by the jar.

"It's a good deal here and I interact with a lot of people," Garza said. "I've been here every month since the beginning. Sometimes I sell out quick, sometimes I don't sell out at all, but it's always a good time out here."

Garza said he has his regular customers who will seek him out every month for their "honey fix."

"They'll call me to find out if I'm coming out, too," he said.

Other longtime vendors for the Kingsville Farmers Market include Tony and Suzanne Piccola, a San Diego couple who offer vegetables grown from their organic garden under the name P2 Organics, and Charlotte Wymore with her homemade jams and craft projects made from blue jeans.

"We started here about three months after the first one," Tony Piccola said.

Suzanne Piccola said they had spent 30 years farming in Central Texas, selling their vegetables "at a large scale" to area farmers markets and to stores.

"But after so many years of not seeing family and friends, we decided it was time to retire," she said. "But we're still able to do this and sell the excess of what we don't eat."

Tony Piccola described the Kingsville Farmers Market as a "fun market," where they can not only make some money but also make friends.

"Everybody here is real nice and friendly," he said.

Suzanne Piccola said when they have carrots in stock, they are typically the first item that sells out, though she said "it can vary on whatever people's tastes are that month." Also popular are a selection of vegetable plants that customers can buy and plant in their own gardens.

"And we don't need much, so we try to keep our prices down," she said.

Wymore said while she doesn't always attend the farmers market every month, she tries to make it out to as many as possible.

"It's what keeps me young," she said.

Wymore said throughout the year, she and her daughter, Barbie, travel around Texas to buy the fruit used in their homemade jams.

"We go to Fredericksburg to get peaches in July, we get strawberries in Poteet and in Montgomery my grandsons will help pick berries," she said. "We go all over, and I process it and put it in the freezer. Then we can make jams all year long."

While jams are her most popular ware, Wymore said she loves "tearing up blue jeans" to make decorative craft items that she also sells at the market.

"I used to do it at the seller's market here in Kingsville probably in 1989," she said. "Some people love my stuff, but it can be both good and bad (in sales). Either way, I enjoy it."

Throughout Saturday morning, shoppers kept the pavilion packed as they browsed vendor tables for foods and items to purchase.

Joe Acuna brought his wife, Jesslyn, and 15-month-old son Elijah with him for their first time at the farmers market.

"We'd been wanting to come out for a while," he said. "And today, I actually had time."

Acuna said his family had planned to just "come out and do some sightseeing" at the market. However, within minutes their arrival, he was already speaking to a vendor about buying a piece of art constructed out of wood.

"It's pretty remarkable seeing all of the local stuff that's available in our area," he said. "I like the products I've seen out here, and I'll definitely be stopping by again to get some more'

Rick and Melissa Mooney said they always bring a list of items with them to the farmers market, through their first stop is always to get fresh vegetables.

"And cilantro sauce," Rick Mooney said.

"We like the variety of items that are here," Melissa Mooney said. "And we like talking to the people, too. It's nice to see the community come together and share their crafts and food, the things that they make at home."

Tricia Mooney said she has been shopping at the Kingsville Farmers Market ever since the first one held on that cold day in February 2015. She said she remembers bundling up "in sweats and a jacket."

"It's good weather today," she said.

Mooney said the Kingsville Farmers Market has gotten "bigger and better" over time, and she will continue to support it for as long as it lasts.

"I love the farmers market," she said. "And I'm glad people are out here supporting it. I mean, you've got to."

The Kingsville Farmers Market is held on the fourth Saturday of every month from 9 a.m. to noon at the Downtown Pavilion adjacent to the Xeriscape Garden on N. Sixth Street. For more information, visit "Kingsville Farmers Market" on Facebook.


Early voting off to slow start

Turnout was low for the first week of early voting in the March Primary Election, according to numbers provided by the Kleberg County Clerk's office, with only about 3.6 percent of the county's registered voters casting a ballot.

"It is just so unpredictable," Kleberg County Clerk Stephanie Garza said of voter turnout. "But we're hoping that everybody will come out on Super Tuesday next week."

As of Tuesday morning, Kleberg County had 667 early voters, ranging from a high of 136 total voters casting a ballot last Tuesday to just 79 voters turning out on Saturday. Garza said there are 18,062 registered voters in Kleberg County.

On Tuesday, Feb. 18, a total of 136 voters cast ballots in the election, with 62 voting Democrat and 74 voting Republican, but dropped to 108 total voters on Wednesday, Feb. 19, with 59 Republicans and 49 Democrats.

The numbers remained steady on Thursday, Feb. 20, with 50 Democrats

and 57 Republicans turning out for a total of 107 voters, before increasing on Friday, Feb. 21, to 135 with 79 Republicans and 56 Democrats casting ballots.

The lowest turnout during the first week was on Saturday, Feb. 22, with only 58 Democrats and 21 Republicans participating in early voting for a total of 79 votes cast for the day. Voter turnout increased to 102 on Monday, Feb. 24, which saw 50 Republicans and 52 Democrats come out to vote.

Garza said her office was surprised by Saturday's low turnout.

"We thought for sure that was when everybody was going to come out and vote, but nobody came," she said.

"I'm hoping our voting totals will pick up during election day," Garza said.

The early voting continues through Friday, Feb. 28, from 8 a.m. to 5 p.m. at the Kleberg County Early Voting Annex Office, located at 720 E. King Ave. across the street from the Kleberg County Courthouse.

Primary Election Day will be Tuesday, March 3, from 7 a.m. to 7 p.m. On Election Day, voters must vote in the precinct where they are registered to vote.

Polling locations are as follows:

Pct. 11 – Wild Horse Mall main entrance (1601 S. Hwy 77)

Pct. 12 – Kleberg County Pct. 1 Building (1910 E. Trant Rd.)

Pct. 13 and 14 – Coastal Bend Fellowship Church Hall (1500 E. Caesar Ave.)

Pct. 21 – Kleberg Elementary School (900 N. 6th St.)

Pct. 22 – Kleberg County Pct. 2 Building (620 N. 3rd St.)

Pct. 23 – University Baptist Church, Rear Building (1324 N. Armstrong Ave.)

Pct. 24 – Santa Gertrudis School (803 Santa Rosa Rd.)

Pct. 31 – Knights of Columbus Hall Council 3389 (320 Gen. Cavazos Blvd.)

Pct. 32 – St. Paul AME Church (529 W. Warren Ave.)

Pct. 33 and 34 – Riviera County Building (103 N. 7th St., Riviera)

Pct. 35 – Ricardo Community Senior Center (109 N. Nix St.)

Pct. 41 and 42 – Gillett Intermediate School (1007 N. 17th St.)

Pct. 43 – Early Voting Annex Office (207 E. King Ave. at 12th St.)

Pct. 44 – Kingsville ISD Administration Building (207 N. 3rd St.)

Pct. 45 – St. Martin's Church Parish Hall (504 E. Ella Ave.)

Sample ballots for the Primary Election can be found online at http://www.co.kleberg.tx.us/page/kleberg.Elections.


Bishop council supports housing project

In a 4-0 vote, the Bishop City Council approved during a special session Monday to adopt a resolution in support of a proposed $8.5 million rental housing development planned to be constructed just north of Bishop.

The proposed housing project, called Casitas Los Ebanos, will be located on eight acres of property north of County Road 70 on CR 81A near Bishop. It is being developed by "come dream. come build." or CDCB, formerly known as the Community Development Corporation of Brownsville. CDCB is a non-profit organization.

According to documentation for the project, the $8.5 million, 8-acre development will have 50 single family-style one-and two-story home rental units and will include amenities like a flood resistant design, playground and green space, laundry room, community room, office space, leasing office and a mailbox kiosk.

Other CDCB housing projects include the 56-unit La Hacienda Casitas in Harlingen, the 80-unit Casitas Los Olmos in Raymondville and the 50-unit Casita Azucar that has been under construction since June in Santa Rosa.

During Monday's special meeting, CDCB Real Estate Development Director Chloe Dotson gave a presentation on Casitas Los Ebanos to the city council.

Dotson said the housing development would be similar to the CDCB's other "casitas" projects, but will feature a different design that would "reflect what the community wants."

One unique feature that was recently added to the site plan, Dotson said, was the inclusion of a larger laundry facility "that could be used by the entire community."

Dotson said construction time for CDCB's housing project are generally between nine months and a year after closing.

After the presentation, Councilmember Bill Boswell asked about water and sewer lines to the housing development as the Nueces Water Authority would not be able to supply water to that area.

City Attorney Gerald Benadum said the city has had discussions with Dodson and the CDCB about those issues.

"We will need a capacity study of both the water system and the sewage system," Benadum said. "So we're trying to move

forward with that."

Benadum said they are also discussing the housing project's location in regards to extraterritorial jurisdiction, or ETJ, which could allow the City of Bishop to exercise legal authority beyond its normal city limits.

Dotson said Casitas Los Ebanos would be located "0.3 miles from County Road 70," which Benadum said was "within the city's ETJ."

Boswell made the motion to approve the resolution, which was seconded by Albert Guajardo and passed in a 4-0 unanimous vote. Councilmembers Kabrina Lawrence and Nathan Garza were not present for Monday's special meeting.

The resolution will be used in the CDCB's application to the Texas Department of Housing and Community Affairs for 2020 competitive housing tax credits for the project.

In a Feb. 12 interview, CDCB Executive Director Nick Mitchell-Bennett said if the project does not receive those tax credits this year, the company would apply for them again in 2021 to move the development forward.

In the resolution also states that the City of Bishop will provide an in-kind contribution of a minimum amount of $250 for the housing development.

On Feb. 12, the Nueces County Commissioners Court also adopted a similar resolution in favor of the housing project. That resolution also passed in a unanimous vote.