Austin Farmers Markets

As many Austinites relish living a healthy lifestyle, it’s no surprise that Farmers’ Markets are a hit in the city. The markets bring fresh foods from locally grown areas to those looking for an alternative to the goods found in the neighborhood grocery store.

Though many cities don’t have a farmers’ market, Austin has had up to five at one time, with the Austin Farmers’ Market being one of the most popular. Located both in the center of town, at 4th and Guadalupe, and also north-central in Triangle Park, the Austin Farmers’ Market supports local farms, ranches, dairies and nurseries within a 150 mile radius. The central location is open every Saturday and the north location is open Wednesdays year round, rain or shine. The Austin Farmers’ Market is a "Grower’s Only" market, meaning vendors sell only items that they grow, and nothing that has been imported in any way.

The Austin Farmers’ Market began, and is still run, as a project of the local non profit group called the Sustainable Food Center in 2003. With roots dating back to 1975, the Sustainable Food Center was created to "create a Food Secure community by improving access to local, healthy, and affordable food for children and adults in Central Texas." Not only do they donate produce to local area food banks, and teach gardening practices to the public, but by running the Austin Farmers’ Market in the middle of town, they also make freshly grown produce accessible to low-income residents.

Now celebrating their 10th year, the Sunset Valley Farmers’ Market is also held every Saturday, at Toney Burger Center in South Austin, and was recently voted as the "Best Farmers’ Market" in the 2007 Austin Chronicle Readers’ Poll. 75% of the produced sold is grown organically or sustainably, and free of pesticides and fertilizers; participants boast some produce is picked just hours before it is purchased.

Alongside the fresh produce brought in from local vendors, the farmers’ markets can entertain and educate, by putting on chef’s demos, providing children’s activities, and having local musicians perform. Also local artisans are invited to sell their wares, and many farmers bring prepared foods, such as jams, salsas, and empanadas, using their own ingredients.

Though many farms bring their goods in from Austin’s surrounding areas, Boggy Creek Farm is possibly the closest, in the heart of East Austin, just off Pleasant Valley Road. Now surrounded by subdivisions, schools, and commercial areas that were all once part of the farm, Boggy Creek Farm sits on 5 acres of hearty soil, and is one of the few truly urban farms in the nation. When they aren’t selling their fresh produce at a farmers’ market, they help stock Whole Foods grocery store, which sits 3 miles away.

In 2007, environmental magazine GreenLight, named the Austin Farmers’ Market as one of their top ten farmers’ markets in the country, out of over 4,000 markets. They based their findings on strict adherence to sustainable farming practices, distance from markets to farms, and the market’s focus on food and farm-related community and educational projects, among other criteria. Though the farmers’ markets of Austin can be an enjoyable and delicious experience, they are also living up to a high national standard while bringing the urban and farming communities together, and helping out all involved.

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About The Author, Dane Smith
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