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A Guide to Austin’s Farmers Markets and Local Sustainable Agriculture

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SFC runs several farmers markets in town (photo by Jon Wiley on flicker.com)
SFC runs several farmers markets in town (photo by Jon Wiley on flicker.com)

Following the success of books such as Michael Pollan’s The Omnivore’s Dilemma and Food Rules, Eric Schlosser’s Fast Food Nation, and the award winning documentary Food, Inc., “farm to market” has become a rather fashionable phrase with a lot of oomph behind it.   In our pursuit for a more sustainable and ecological way to feed ourselves, directly supporting organic and local growers, eating seasonal fruits and vegetables, and looking for pasture-fed meat (in contrast to horrific factory farming practices) is the perfect way for us to turn our words and opinions into action.  A fun trip to the farmer’s market way is a great way to support organic and local growers using “green” practices.  Many of the sellers are happy and proud to talk about their farming philosophies and practices, giving us the opportunity to learn more about where our food comes from.  We can feel good about the fact that by choosing to buy direct from the farmers, we’re putting our money where our mouth is.

But let’s talk about money.  While it’s true that a trip to the farmer’s is usually more expensive than a trip to HEB, it’s not an all or nothing affair.  Think about what’s important to you and what you’re willing to spend money on.  If you enjoy a good steak but feel strongly about animal welfare, you can choose to cut down on the overall amount of meat that you purchase and buy from farms with practices that are more in line with your animal code of ethics  such as Finca Pura Vida and Fredricksburg Grass-Fed Beef. If pesticides are something you really want to avoid, take a look at the Environmental Working Groups’ Dirty Dozen to see when buying organic really makes a difference in cutting down your your pesticide intake and look for those foods at your local farmers market.

Several different organizations run farmers’ markets in Austin.  The Sustainable Food Center (SFC) runs 3 markets in Austin as well as the SFC Neighborhood Farm Markets which are open from late May to late July.  Cash is usually the only option for payment (some might take checks) so visit the ATM beforehand.  SFC Austin Farmers’ Markets do provide a Market ATM which allows you to purchase wooden tokens charged to your debit card for a nominal $2 fee.  Some markets offer the optional bonus of accepting WIC-FMNP, Lone Star SNAP (food stamp) benefits (For SFC markets, visit the blue information booths to get your tokens.)  SFC and HOPE (Helping Other People Everywhere) which runs a Sunday market are both non-profit organizations working in community development.

Austin has farmers markets on most days and in all parts of town.  The biggest markets are on Saturdays and some are more of a scene than others.  If you’re in the mood for browsing and perusing items other than food, I would suggest the bigger Saturday Markets such as the downtown one at Republic Square Park and the Barton Creek Market.  If you’d just like to get in and out with your veggies and meat and don’t need a huge selection, try one of the smaller markets, such as the one at Triangle Park.

Here’s a guide to the markets by day.  Click on the markets’ webpages to find more information about the vendors that sell there.  If you live outside of Austin, the Texas Farmers’ Market Association has a list of all Certified Texas Farmers’ Markets and the Sustainable Food Project lists many surrounding area Farmers’ Markets as well.

LEGEND:

$ = Cash
⋆ = Lone Star SNAP Accepted
𝝎 = WIC Accepted

MONDAY:

Northeast WIC Clinic  (SFA Neighborhood Farm Market) $⋆𝝎
7112 Ed Bluestein (Manor and 183)
8am – 11am

St. John’s Community Center (SFA Neighborhood Farm Market) $⋆𝝎
Virginia Brown Recreation Center
7500 Blessing Ave
Monday 12 – 2 pm

WEDNESDAY:

Rosewood-Zaragosa Neighborhood Center (SFA Neighborhood Farm Market) $⋆𝝎
2800 Webberville Rd
11 am – 1 pm

Austin Farmer’s Market at Triangle Park.  $ ⋆  𝝎
4600 Guadalupe St.
4 pm – 8 pm May – September (Hours change to 3 pm-7 pm from October to April)

Travis County Farmers’ Market (re-opened on Aug 7th, 2010)  $
6701 Burnet Rd.
noon – dark; year-round

THURSDAY:

Travis County Farmers’ Market (re-opened on Aug 7th, 2010) $
6701 Burnet Rd.
noon – dark; year-round

Georgetown Farmers’ Market
400 S. Austin Ave. Georgetown
3:30 pm – 6:30 pm; April – November

FRIDAYS

Travis County Farmers’ Market (re-opened on Aug 7th)  $
6701 Burnet Rd.
noon – dark; year-round

SATURDAYS

SFC Farmers’ Market Downtown at Republic Square Park $ ⋆ 𝝎
4th and Guadalupe
9 am – 1 pm;  year-round

SFC Farmers’ Market at Sunset Valley $ ⋆ 𝝎
3200 Jones St. (Toney Burger Center Parking Lot)
9 am – 1 pm;  year-round

Barton Creek Farmers’ Market $  (Coupons on Website)
3031 Tamarron 78746 (back corner of Barton Creek Shopping Mall)
9 am – 1 pm; year-round

Travis County Farmers’ Market (re-opened on Aug 7th)  $
6701 Burnet Rd.
noon – dark; year-round

South Austin Farmers’ Market $
2901 South Congress
8 am – 1 pm; year-round

Round Rock Farmers’ Market $
200 E Baghdad Rd., Round Rock
8 am – noon; April – November

SUNDAY

Hope Farmers Market $
E. 5th St. and Waller St., at Pine Street Station.
10 am – 2 pm

Travis County Farmers’ Market (re-opened on Aug 7th)  $
6701 Burnet Rd.
noon – dark; year-round

If you can’t be bothered to drive to a farmers’ market, you still have options.  Austin has several great Community Supported Agriculture (CSA) Programs.  These organizations make regular deliveries of harvested fruits and vegetables to subscribers.  Some even have the option of adding local meat, cheese, and other products to your delivery.  Some will bring it right to your door and some have neighborhood pick-up centers (possibly even closer than your nearest grocery store).  CSAs vary on how much choice you have on the deliveries so check with each one to see if it fits your needs.  There are also organic delivery services:

Johnson’s Backyard Garden (CSA)

Greenling (Delivery)

Farmhouse Delivery (CSA/Delivery) 

Green Gate Farms (CSA)

Urban Roots (CSA/youth development program – closed for 2010 but will start again in 2011)

Ottmers Family (CSA)

Scott Arbor (CSA)

Natural Springs Garden (CSA)

Urban Patchwork (CSA)

Tecolote Farm (CSA)

Springdale Farm (CSA)

For more CSA options, go to http://www.localharvest.org/

Fellow Austinites, any opinions on which farmers’ market is the best?  Do you or have you subscribe to a CSA? Any other good books you can recommend on sustainable agriculture?  Please feel free to share!  Happy green grocery shopping!