Harlingen Farmers’ Market director enjoys Valley life

HARLINGEN — Before becoming accustomed to palm trees and high temperatures in the summer, Kate McSwain lived in the Seattle area.

She moved to the Rio Grande Valley 11 years ago after visiting and fell in love with Harlingen.

“I love Jackson Street, that there is an airport to fly out of, and I loved the size of Harlingen,” she said.

McSwain was looking to settle down in a smaller city, opposite of the large area she left.

Upon her arrival in Harlingen, she began to visit the local farmers’ market.

McSwain has always been keen on shopping locally, and at the time, she felt it was the only thing Harlingen was lacking.

“It was founded by two friends of mine, and they created the farmers’ market. And I started shopping at it, and five years later they asked me to take over,” she said.

“I was very honored and accepted the invitation, and I told them I wanted to turn it into a non-profit,” McSwain said.

As soon as she took over, she applied and created a seven member board of directors and has created a bigger outreach.

“They felt I had the people skills to deal with the vendors,” she said.

When McSwain was first introduced to the market, it had 11 vendors.

Now, it has 24.

“We were part of a grant where the funds were used to build the roof of the city parking lot we utilize. That was a big deal,” McSwain said.

The biggest hardship she has had to deal with is to come back after being shut down because of COVID-19.

However, McSwain said it has not been as difficult to bring back vendors and make sure people are abiding to the CDC guidelines.

McSwain loves being able to manage the farmers’ market.

“I love people, and because my previous profession was in education, I love helping people find answers to things. And I am glad to problem solve,” she said.

“I love visiting the farms; that has been a lot of fun. There are all these new young vendors that have created a product and brought it to the board, and many of them go on to increase their production,” McSwain said.

When she moved to Harlingen, she did not imagine finding the community she did, she said.

“I hope someone else meets me and thinks ‘Oh, I’d love to live in this town,’” McSwain said.

The usual chef demos and children’s activities, as well as fundraisers, were postponed because of the pandemic, but the market continues to thrive.

“Vendors understand they need to wear a mask and people who come to shop trust it is a good environment for them,” she said.

McSwain has lived in Houston, Dallas, New Orleans, Denver, Atlanta and Seattle.

She calls herself an adventurer and also enjoys renovating houses. So far she has done 13, including three in Harlingen.

Her current house has two different gardens and energy efficient appliances.

McSwain is a supporter of recycling.

“I feel very settled in here; I am happy,” she said.

ecavazos@valleystar.com