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Fresh52 markets founder insists on local vendors, homemade goods

Vegas Voices is a weekly series highlighting notable Las Vegans.

Carrie Hogan was an event planner and worked for a wedding concierge service when she saw a movie that reduced her to tears and convinced her to try to help improve the world.

Hogan, a resident of Southern Nevada since 1998, still plans events under the name CH Designs, but mostly for family, friends and referrals. But she spends most of her time as founder and manager of the Fresh52 Farmers and Artisan Market, which runs from 8:30 a.m. to 1 p.m. Sundays at Sansone Park Place at 9480 S. Eastern Ave. in Henderson, and from 9 a.m. to 1 p.m. on the second and fourth Saturday of each month at Inspirada’s Solista Park at 2000 Via Firenze in Henderson.

Hogan even mans a booth at the markets, selling products from Gilcrease Orchard in the northern Las Vegas Valley and China Ranch Date Farm in Tecopa, California, about 75 miles from Las Vegas. Her farmers hail from locales including Henderson, Boulder City, Las Vegas and Pahrump.

Review-Journal: How were you inspired to start Fresh52?

Carrie Hogan: I saw a movie, “Food, Inc.” (in 2010). It’s on how food is produced behind closed doors, and it’s basically a racket. It was very empowering to me and I needed to make a decision to do my part. Cheap food is an illusion; it makes you sicker in the end. I was on a quest for conscious consumption. At the end of the movie, I was literally bawling. It says on the screen to do something for your community — start a farmers market. I looked at all of them and said, “OK, this is what I gotta do.” I wanted to change our food system. I thought we really needed it.

In what ways did you want Fresh52 to be different from other farmers markets?

There were farmers markets in town that had produce, but you never knew where it was coming from. I wanted to be transparent. I wanted everything there to be handmade, sourced locally. I wanted to help small businesses grow. Local farmers want a manager there to control the stuff that’s coming in. I’m very familiar with farmers markets in other states; it’s like my hobby to go visit them. I get tons of vendors all the time who would love to be part of our market, but they don’t make what they sell; the people who make what they sell can’t compete. I get great satisfaction from these small farmers and smaller businesses doing so well for themselves and their families.

What are your standards for your farmers and vendors?

They log onto our website, fill out an application, submit all legal documents, all the information about their farm or how they make things — pest management, (acreage), water management, if they’re organic or not. I go look at the farm before they ever sell, meet the farmers, look at their agriculture certificates to see if what they’re growing matches their certs. Whether it’s a farmer or beauty product or food maker, they send a sample with ingredients. I review all ingredients; no GMOs and no artificial ingredients. I don’t require organic, but we encourage it. And we encourage them to advertise that as well. For the food makers, I go to their commissaries and watch them make their foods.

How many vendors do you have?

Last year we had over 90 signed up; 30 to 35 are regularly there. I don’t want to fill up my market spots just to make it look bigger or better. I don’t want to have a ton of crafters.

What do you see as the future of the industry?

Hopefully in our town, it keeps getting better and better. More and more farmers markets are opening across the nation. I just returned from a conference in California; they’re trying to get people to stop opening them because it’s getting oversaturated. We have a shortage of vendors here. We don’t have a lot of creative food vendors. A big part of what we want to do is educate the consumer and get them there shopping every week and supporting the local vendors. We really need to work on that in this town.

Contact Heidi Knapp Rinella at hrinella@reviewjournal.com or 702-383-0474. Follow @HKRinella on Twitter.

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