Want to Start a Farmers Market? Go-To Guru Casey Barbles Knows All the Fun, Healthful Tricks
GUESS YOU COULD say timing is everything. After conducting one of her first cooking classes showcasing farmers market ingredients at Lemon Laine, native Houstonian and nutritionist Casey Barbles was approached by Radom Capital to develop a brand-new farmers market. Being in the midst of the initial pandemic, the need for outdoor markets quickly escalated, which eventually led to her new venture, The Feel Good Group, an event-planning company specializing in fun living markets.
“I really did not see it coming, but when Radom asked me to create Heights Mercantile Farmers Market, it felt like the perfect piece to add to my blooming career in nutrition,” says Barbles. At the time, she was immersed in her blog The Informal Grub, which covers nutrition, cooking, pop-up events, and nutrition consultation. Based on her studies at the University of Bridgeport with a master’s degree in human nutrition, her blog-website, which is now a business, was inspired by multiple rare and challenging syndromes she was diagnosed with in her 20s.
During her quest to find wellness, Barbles sought out countless medical specialists as well as a local Chinese medicine expert, who taught her about meditation, balance and rest. “After being introduced to farmers markets, I began to heal and saw the impact nutrition had on the body,” says Barbles, who had an early career in pharmaceutical sales. “I’ve always loved science. My mom was a biology teacher.”
Developers noticed that vendor markets were bringing foot traffic to their businesses during the shut-down and suddenly everyone wanted an outdoor farmers market. “When I began to receive multiple requests to start markets for other developers, The Feel Good Group was formed with co-founder Travis Denson, a high school friend and fitness buff,” says Barbles. Her first Heights Mercantile market went from 14 vendors to 40, and the masses showed up to roam and buy.
Instead of the standard produce-filled farmers market, Barbles created a party. She brought in chefs, a stilt walker, a dunking tank, beverages, and sometimes live music. “Houstonians were thanking me,” says Barbles. “They hadn’t been out of their house for months due to Covid-19, and what they found at our markets was a safe place to buy groceries and have a good time with the whole family.” Hence the name, Feel Good Group.
Today, her schedule is so full with markets and participating in wellness events and workshops around Houston, that she has a full staff. Current The Informal Grub Markets include the Heights Mercantile FM and Rice Village Farmers Market. Feel Good Markets are on tap at M-K-T Sunset Market, Feel Good Market at the Ion, Memorial City Markets, and the Spring Branch Village Fall Fest in October (these are now quarterly).
“Our newest partnership with Brookfield Downtown is a weekly farmers market at Allen Center and Houston Center with a kickoff market in October and November to boost excitement for the debut in Spring 2023.” And The Feel Good Group living market will be in Round Top at Bader Ranch for the fall show with a permanent residence this season.
Barbles says that she loves working with the local community and farms that contributed to her continued healing. “Professionally, I love being my own boss — and that there are no rules when it comes to creating a business from scratch, which allows me to be authentic, create new concepts, and be a total dreamer. I lead from the heart.”
Barble thinks farmers markets are berry good things!
Barbles with friends at a foodie event in Round Top event
One of Barble's secrets to creating successful farmers markets: Make them fun!
Barble with chef friends at a foodie event
Barbles at a farmers market
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