Seeds planted

Historic Houston Farmers Market officially breaks ground on transformation project

Houston officially has an innovative culinary mecca in the works. Courtesy of Houston Farmers Market

The massive effort to transform the Houston Farmers Market into one of the city's leading culinary attractions finally has a timeline. MLB Capital Partners, the local investment firm that purchased the almost 18-acre tract at the corner of Airline Drive and 610 in 2017, broke ground on the project Tuesday, August 6, with a goal of completing the work by late 2020.

"As the country's fourth-largest city and leading culinary capital, Houston is long overdue for a world-class market," said MLB Capital Partners managing principal Todd Mason in a statement. "We are thrilled to reinvigorate this local landmark into an experiential destination for both Houstonians and visitors to enjoy."

MLB's changes to the property will include "new climate-controlled spaces, shaded open-air market areas, restrooms, and common seating areas," according to a release. Better traffic flow and expanded parking areas will separate commercial traffic from pedestrians, and expanded facilities will accommodate a host of new merchants and food vendors. The market will remain open during the renovations.

James Beard Award-winning chef Chris Shepherd is serving as a culinary consultant on the project and will open a new concept at the market, which shouldn't come as a surprising considering Mason is also Shepherd's partner in Underbelly Hospitality. Other participants in the project include landscape architecture firm Clark Condon Associates, Studio RED Architects, Houston-based consulting firm Gunda Corporation, and Arch-Con Construction.

"We'll be doing something here," Shepherd tells CultureMap. "As far as what that is, I've narrowed it down to about 50 things."

Renovations to the market will include new greenspaces. Courtesy of Houston Farmers Market


Shepherd is also working with Mason to identify the vendors that will occupy the market's new stalls. While some have expressed concerns about the market losing its character, Mason told CultureMap in 2017 that he wants to preserve what people like about the market while enhancing the overall experience.

"When you really start talking to people about what they like, what they like is there's a lot of different cultures and there are things you can get and see there that you can't get anywhere else," Mason said. "We'll keep those tenants. I don't think we'll have to charge them much if any more rent. We'll still have an open air market with vendors selling directly to you. All of that experience will still be there, but it will be a cleaner, safer environment."

For his part, Shepherd sees the project as a positive development.

"I think it's amazing what's going on," he says. "I think, 10 years from now, you're going to look back and be like this was the moment where we changed the city a little bit . . . It is one of those defining things that will bring a lot of tourism over here."

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This story originally appeared on CultureMap.

Grand prize winner, Traci Johannson, 3 Sons Foods; Jody Hall, H-E-B; George Johannson; Winell Herron, H-E-B; Luke and Ayden Johannson; James Harris, H-E-B. Photo courtesy of H-E-B

Five homegrown Texas businesses are enjoying Lone Star State-sized bragging rights after a big win on August 8. The entrepreneurs are the collective winners of H-E-B's sixth-annual Primo Picks Quest for Texas Best contest, which recognizes the most innovative products. Collectively, the winners earn $80,000 in prizes, and, just as important, coveted shelf space in H-E-Bs across the state.

A Houston family leads the way, joining winners from Austin; San Antonio; Woodway; and Atlanta, Texas. Houston's 3 Sons Foods won a grand prize of $25,000 and featured placement as a Texas Primo Pick for Diablo Verde Sauce, a creamy cilantro offering. The company is owned by and operated by Traci Johannson and her three young sons: George (11), Luke (14), and Ayden (16). A portion of Diablo Verde sales goes to the International Rhino Foundation to help stop the illegal poaching of rhinos, according to a release.

First place honors — and a $20,000 prize — go to Austin's Courtney Ray Goodson for her Uncle Ray's Peanut Brittle. Inspired by her great uncle Ray's 35-year-old recipe, Goodson's offerings include Bacon Pecan, Butternut, Pecan, and classic Peanut Brittle.

Hailing from Woodway, Texas, Derek Newball landed second place and $15,000 for his EVOKE collagen drink. Capitalizing on the collagen drink trend, Newball's coconut-based products are meant to benefit skin, hair, joints, and bones, and come in coconut, mandarin coconut, and pineapple coconut flavors.

To the Moon Family Foods, based in Atlanta, Texas, tied for third place (a $10,000 prize) with its To the Moon Family Foods Nutty-Carrot Spread. Creators Kay Lynn York and Joan Reece combine carrots, pecans, and "mouthwatering" spices for a spread to be used on sandwiches; meats; or even rolled in balls, coated, and fried.

Tying with To the Moon at third place (and a $10,000 prize) is San Antonio's Grain4Grain Low-Carb Flour and Mix. Owners Yoni Medhin and Matt Mechtly recycle spent grains from local microbreweries to make a low-carb, high-protein, high-fiber flour. For every pound of flour sold, Grain4Grain donates a pound to those in need.

The 2019 Quest for Texas Best competition drew more than 800 entries from nearly 140 cities and towns across the state after a call for entries in February of this year. Through two qualifying rounds, submissions were judged on taste and flavor, customer appeal, value, uniqueness, market potential, and differentiation from current products at most H-E-B stores.

"Each of these 20 competitors displayed unprecedented creativity, style, and commitment to providing outstanding, unique products for our consideration," said James Harris, director of diversity & inclusion and supplier diversity at H-E-B, in a statement. "In fact, the entries were so good that we ended up with five winners this year. We are delighted to share that diversity and ingenuity with our customers across the state."

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This story originally appeared on CultureMap.