SFC Farmers Markets, Austin
The sense that farmers markets forge bonds — bringing people closer to nature, to their food and to their neighbors — is nowhere more evident than in Austin, at markets run by the nonprofit Sustainable Food Center. How close, exactly? So close that when baker Jean Brooks posted on Facebook, "Max has done it!" her market-going friends rejoiced with her. ("For those who don't know," Brooks explained, "Max is our dwarf peach tree" — and Max's achievement was providing fruit for the cinnamon peach pies Brooks would bake for the next market day.)
SFC runs year-round, rain-or-shine markets at three locations, including its original market in downtown's historic Republic Square Park. With more than 110 vendors participating, it is the largest certified growers-only farmers market in Texas. Market programs literally cater to visitors coming and going: Arriving shoppers can drop their household food wastes into the market's compost bin, while departing shoppers can take home unlimited clean, filtered water in special blue "Fill 'er Up at the Market" bottles.
As befits a town with the tongue-in-cheek motto "Keep Austin Weird," the markets sell offbeat items — aquaculture-grown seaweed, feral hog meat — as well as traditional farm fare. Consultant Brigid Shea, a onetime Austin City Council member, credits SFC and its markets with fueling "an explosion of creativity around local and organic food. The amount of fabulous and unique kinds of foods that are coming out of Austin is just flat-out astonishing. There's not enough time in the day to sample it all."
Visitors can be forgiven for trying. For produce, Shea's favorite stops at the market include Johnson's Backyard Farm: "phenomenal, sweet carrots, and these beautiful beets that when you slice them, the inside is a swirl of purple and garnet and white." She urges early shoppers to head to Tacodeli for breakfast tacos with Salsa Doña, a "to-die-for" creamy sauce made from a house-secret recipe. Other vendors singled out by market aficionados: Thunderheart Bison, whose free-range bison meat won a gold-medal award in the Gallo Family Vineyards' artisanal food competition; and Cocoa Puro Kakawa Chocolates, whose chocolate-covered cocoa beans have made Saveur magazine's Top 100 Foods List.
512-236-0074 ext 101
Downtown: 4th and Guadalupe streets, Saturdays: 9 a. m.-1 p.m. year-round
Sunset Valley: 3200 Jones Road, at the Toney Burger Center sports facility, Saturdays: 9 a.m.-1 p.m. year-round
The Triangle: 46th and Lamar streets, Wednesdays: 4-8 p.m. year-round