Entrepreneurial spirit flourishes at El Paso’s farmers markets


Mary Maskill and Arianna Romero

Farmers markets in El Paso provide not only local produce, arts and entertainment, they also bring entrepreneurial opportunities.

Mother and daughter, Mary Maskill and Arianna Romero, operate Pretty in Lemon, a lemonade stand that can be seen at nearly every farmer and artist market location.

“I’ve always wanted to open a business. It’s been a dream of mine to open my own business. It’s awesome to be your own boss,” said Romero, whose parents helped her open the lemonade and simple syrup stand.

Maskill shares her daughter’s space with her own business called Pretty in Paper. She says her husband hopes to one day open a hot dog or bratwurst stand.

“He said ‘maybe we can be right next to each other and you can sell the drinks and I sell the food,’ she said. “Hopefully one day that will happen.”

There are farmers markets on Fridays at Fountains at Farrah, Saturdays at Ardovino’s Desert Crossing, Saturdays Downtown, and Sundays at the Hobby Lobby in the Upper Valley.

Romero said the hardest part of selling at markets throughout the weekend is getting the booth set up.

“You can show how proud you are of your business by how it looks and how you present yourself. But we move our store everywhere, so we pick up everything. We pick up the tables, the water, everything. Hauling it back and forth is heavy work,” she said.

Harold Shumate is a honey producer with New Mexico Desert Farm who sells honey made by local bees.

“The honey comes from different flowers. I have my bees where I have at least 100 acres of just those flowers, so the bees will only go to those flowers. That’s the way I can control what kind of honey I get. I have mesquite honey from mesquite bushes, Palo Verde, alfalfa, catclaw, cotton, rose,” Shumate said.

He cautions shoppers to know how to tell they’re getting the real thing.

“If the honey doesn’t taste like the flower it comes from, it’s not real. All honey comes from a flower, so it must taste like the flower it comes from. If it’s only sweet, you just bought corn syrup,” he said.

He also touts the benefits of honey.

“The honey itself has lots of good properties. Honey will heal a cut faster than anything you can buy in stores. Honey has natural antibiotics, enzymes, folic acid, tremendous amount of benefits raw honey has.”

Two years ago, Shumate began selling CBD oil in addition to honey.

“A lot of people are buying CBD oil as a way to manage pain,” he said.

He isn’t a reseller of the CBD oil, but makes his own.

“I have a lab report from a third-party so you know exactly what you are getting. There are so many people out here selling CBD oil, it’s unbelievable. All they do is buy it, resell it, or put a different label on it and resell it. They don’t know what’s in it, they don’t know their quality, they don’t know how much is really there or not,” he said.

Max Rapaport sells melons, chilis, and other produce at farmers markets for Grow Wild at Sierra Vista Growers.

“I used to be a chef for many years in Colorado where the market culture was very strong, the farm-to-table movement. In my background, I worked in a lot of restaurants where all of the food that we use, as far as produce, was grown within 100 miles of our restaurant. When I moved here, I was hard pressed to find a good market culture with fresh vegetables fresh produce, organically grown and responsibly harvested,” he said.

Rappaport started gardening in his back yard, then “I found Sierra Vista Growers where I started selling house plants, trees, everything that we have there, flowers. From there it kind of grew organically to what you see here.”

In addition to sales, the farmers market culture appeals to vendors.

“I enjoy making the drinks,” Romero said. “I enjoy making the lemonade, but my favorite part is the people. Oh my goodness, so many sweet people and so many friends that we make by doing this. It’s awesome how this community supports each other.”

Maskill agreed.

“My nephew told me one time, ‘You guys are lucky because you guys are actually doing what you’ve always wanted to do’ so it’s a privilege to be able to, maybe not become rich but be happy. We love meeting people, we have made a lot of friendships.”

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