McKinney Farmers Market

Robert Hutchins and his family’s Rehoboth Ranch, one of McKinney Farmers Market’s founding vendors, set up shop at the market for the last time Saturday.

Saturday was the end of a season and an era at the McKinney Farmers Market.

It was the last market of the winter and, more significantly, the final McKinney market for Robert Hutchins and Rehoboth Ranch.

Hutchins worked with Chestnut Square to create the market several years ago. His family’s brand has been a constant vendor – never missing a single market – ever since.

“He’s become an institution,” said Mary Lee Homan, manager of the farmers market. “Lots of people pick up and start their orders every week with Rehoboth Ranch.”

The longtime rancher, whose family also sells their locally produced meats at the Coppell farmers market, was somewhat of a visionary in the now-trending industry. He and Chestnut Square leadership helped change city ordinances to allow meat sales from a mobile unit.

Before McKinney, Hutchins sold grass-fed beef and pasture-raised pork at markets in downtown Coppell and Dallas, the latter being the first in the area to allow meat vendors. In those markets, the family faced “sizable obstacles,” Hutchins said.

“We found McKinney Health Compliance to be very cooperative,” he explained. With the city’s blessing, he and Chestnut Square brought in other local vendors.

They saw McKinney as “a tremendous opportunity” given its explosive growth and “Unique by Nature” mantra, he said. Chestnut Square was “just a great place that drew people from all over.”

“A good meat vendor becomes the anchor for a farmers market,” Hutchins noted.

It also pushed what was once a partly seasonal market – from April to November only – to a year-round affair. Now, both McKinney’s and Coppell’s markets carry on through the winter.

In spring and summer months, the McKinney market – held every Saturday at Chestnut Square Historic Village just south of downtown – averages 60 vendors a week, with over 1,000 visitors on busy weekends.

With food as its foundation, the market offers other farm-style products for everyday living: soaps, lotions, kitchen items. There’s face-painting, pony rides and arts and crafts – “a little bit of everything for the entire family,” Homan said.

Named in recent years as one of America’s top farmers markets by Farmland Trust, the historic market is “more of a social unit than just a necessity market,” she explained. “There’s a lot more to do than just buy groceries.”

And Hutchins spurred the transformation. A former Raytheon Co. employee, he went solely agricultural in 2000, selling the Rehoboth Ranch brand with every generation. Their annual sales often top out over a half-million dollars.

And all 12 of Hutchins’ children – his youngest are 18-year-old twin daughters – have had hands in the enterprise. They’ve gathered eggs and milked goats, also selling orders straight from their ranch north of Greenville near Celeste.

“Rehoboth” translates in Hebrew as “God’s place.”

“Our family has earned a reputation,” Hutchins said, which is why no one else will take over sales at the McKinney market despite numerous inquirers.

Just as many have inquired about filling Hutchins’ place in McKinney. “With the growth of the market, our name is definitely out there,” Homan said.

Finding the same quality, though, will be a task – one Homan will work with Hutchins in achieving. The “institution” will be around as a consultant of sorts to ensure the McKinney market “goes in the right direction.”

The market scales back to every other week until April, as construction on the adjacent 9-acre mixed-use development ramps up. The developer and city are keen on keeping the market’s popularity alive and well.

“Our goal is to make it business as usual,” Homan said. “The farmers and ranchers and vendors are here for the long haul.”

Just not their visionary predecessor.

“We’re really going to miss Rehoboth Ranch,” she confessed. “We’ll do our best to replace them, if that’s possible.”

Follow Chris Beattie on Twitter @CB_StarNews

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