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'It was unexpected': Rockdale Chamber of Commerce cancels Farmer's Market after social media backlash

Posted at 5:28 PM, Mar 25, 2024

ROCKDALE, Texas — The Rockdale Chamber of Commerce announced the cancellation of its Farmer's Market on social media Sunday, just days after receiving backlash over the market's location change.

  • The cancellation comes three years after disputes over the location of the market.
  • A Chamber board member who wished to stay anonymous says reasons like changing leadership and backlash on Facebook prompted the chamber to re-evaluate the market's benefit to the chamber.
  • Vendors like Emily Connell say the cancellation may be a step in the right direction, allowing the community to host its own market with improvements.
  • This is a follow-up story to "Rockdale farmer's market location change sparks controversy among Central Texans"

BROADCAST TRANSCRIPT:

The Farmer's Market in Rockdale does more than give locals a place to connect with the community.

For vendors like Emily Connell, it means a second income.

"I was a stay-at-home mom doing it, and it provided a lot of fun. We get to put on events and go to the events, and I think for me, personally, it brings something to do on Saturday," she said.

But now, it's canceled —

"That was unexpected," Connell said.

Just days after the Chamber of Commerce received backlash on social media for moving the market's location from Wolf Park downtown back to Chamber grounds.

I reached out to the Chamber Monday morning for answers.

But so far, they have yet to return my calls.

A board member who wished to stay anonymous told me ongoing changes in leadership and social media backlash are among the reasons the chamber is stepping back from the market.

But it was a chance — Connell says —to help vendors who didn't have a brick-and-mortar store.

"I sell all-natural produce, and then, things I can make with my produce jams, jellies, pickles"

And to help bring business downtown, attracting about 200 people per month in Rockdale.

"We have the cellphone tracking data, which tracks foot traffic, and we can see that about once a month whenever they were having a farmers market — whenever they had more of a special event for that given month — there was a little bit of an uptick in foot traffic," Jim Gibson, the Rockdale economic development director, said.

Now, Connell says she may have to miss sales this year.

"I won't have time to travel to another town or you know, sell on my own at any location," she said.

But she's glad the community is speaking up to improve the market.

"I hope that something happens at the farmers market. We have a lot of great small businesses around here that have incredible products that you can't get in the grocery store," Connell said.

That board member told me that the chamber has no plans to reopen the market, but Connell tells me other vendors are planning to participate in other markets in other towns and possibly start a new one.