Last Saturday, I had the fortunate opportunity to take a break from hectic studying for a trip to the local Farmer’s Market. I had been planning on going since the middle of the semester after I decided to increase the amounts of fresh fruit and veggies I consume. After reading a few articles on the web, I found an article talking about some produce that is better to buy at a farmer’s market because of the high amount of pesticides and general chemicals used to grow these foods. Even though this particular farmer’s market is not aimed to being all organic, there are organic produce sellers and, in general, I find you can get very tasty products at the farmer’s market you cannot get anywhere else. It’s also just fun being outside, enjoying the weather and food.
The Austin Farmer’s Market is an effort by the Sustainable Food Center, community members, and the City of Austin to create a better relationship between local farmers, small businesses, and the people of Austin. Together, their efforts are to increase the health, economy, and social diversity of Austin. Just another way to “Keep Austin Foodie.”
The main markets are Republic Square at 4th and Guadalupe downtown and the Triangle at 46th and Lamar. The market at Republic Square appears on Saturdays from 9am-1pm. It seems to be the primary main market as practically all vendors listed show up during this time. The second main market at the Triangle is on Wednesdays from 4pm-8pm and is a great attraction to the apartment complex along with its myriad restaurants and stores. A new market has also appeared, the SFC Farmer’s Market at Sunset Valley. This market also runs on Saturdays from 9am-1pm, but is not really as accessible without a car from campus.
Coming from campus, you can take the 1L/1M bus to either location of the farmer’s market. It’s really a great way for students to get off campus and enjoy a little more of the city by heading down the farmer’s market and checking out the local produce.
I went to the market on Saturday so I will be focusing on this specific location for the post. Taking the 1M bus downtown, you will be stopping at 4th and Congress. It is then another three blocks to the West where you will pass places such as the Halcyon Coffee House Bar and Lounge before you reach your destination. There’s no missing the patch of green and white tents that are indicative of a farmer’s market. The whole trip is about 15 minutes by bus and then another 5-10 minute walk and is a very convenient way to get to the farmer’s market. You won’t have to worry about finding parking and, if you bring your reusable grocery bag or backpack, you will be able to comfortably cart around your goodies. However, if you’re planning on a larger purchase like 10 pounds of steak or a potted plant, you may want to have that car or friend with a car ready.
Arriving at the farmer’s market, we decided on looking around at all the stands before finalizing our purchases. We had left campus a little after 9 and had arrived at the market a little before 10. People were set up and there was a good amount of people wandering the market. Little kids were playing and dogs were roaming on their leashes as people browsed and ate, trying to decide on their final purchases. The products available ranged from pints of strawberries to gourmet chocolate featured in magazines. For the vendors available, I would say about half of them are just for fresh produce, but the other half are of products/foods/plants that people have cultivated or made for selling. There was also a small stage set up on the west side of the square for entertainment. Today there were quite a few bands playing, but on special occasions there are chefs who come to teach people how to use the fresh ingredients bought that day for delicious foods.
There were so many vendors and it was very hard to decide what to buy. There were tons of free samples and everyone was generally friendly and nice, selling their wares. Some highlights include: So.A.P. who had some lovely smelling soaps and lotions, Jake’s Natural Fine Foods where I ended up buying their Pistachio Raspberry biscotelle, Texas French Bread where they had great priced goodies (bought a $1 demi-French bread loaf), Cake and Spoon who sold some deliciously fresh quiches and baked goods, and the chocolate-covered cocoa beans, which really did have a nutty flavor and I was very tempted to buy.
Overall, I found Austin Farmer’s Market to be perfectly charming and classically Austin. Prices were about $1-2 more than found at Wal-Mart or the grocery store, but I guess that’s the price you pay for being able to bargain directly with the producers. Yet, it must also be pointed out that some goods were cheaper and did not need to include the price for shipping.
Rating: 😛 😛 😛 😛 :P, only reason I can think of not going is if you hate the outdoors (or it’s too hot, which I would agree, you might want to wait) and I still think you should give it a chance. Not the same as a California farmer’s market, but admittedly, how can you compete with that?