The Market is Open

Photography by Jenna Noel

The woman in the large sun hat found the baby beets her kind of heirloom—more beautiful than jewelry or antiques, and tastier, too.

The ping-pong-ball-size veggies came in a beautiful red-orange-white assortment, and the man with the Brazilian accent who’d trucked them in from the farm was pretty cute, too. The woman considered for a moment. She liked beets—was raised on borscht, in fact—but her husband claimed to hate them.

“I have to have them,” she finally said.

She got them, and not a moment too soon, because stalls were selling out all over the new Triangle Farmers’ Market on May 2, its opening day. For the farmers, cheese-makers, pig farmers, vegetable pie bakers and vendors crowding the market, this was a good problem to have.

Nikki Kaya, known as the Mediterranean Chef, apologized for running out of spanakopita. “But try my grandma’s hummus,” she urged, offering generous spoonfuls. Kaya’s recipe uses organic dried garbanzos and freshly squeezed organic lemons, among other ingredients. As a child in Turkey, she learned the recipe on New Year’s Eve from her grandmother. Now it’s her living. “Try it,” she said. “What did a grandma ever make that’s bad?”

“Plenty,” answered a female customer. “I’m a grandma, I should know.” Sold: one tub of hummus and most of the remaining baklava. The crowd intensified, tasting goat cheese and homemade root beer, and greeting neighbors. Children commandeered the bocce court; toddlers got soaked in the fountain. Acoustic music wafted through the air. The guitarist requested fresh vegetables in lieu of tips.

“Hello ladies,” said John Stanley of Back to the Garden in Blue, Texas. “Let’s talk lettuce.”

“What beautiful little butterheads. I’ll take one,” said the first customer in line, as she and other shoppers snapped up Red Cherokee lettuce and practically newborn romaine. Stanley is a Baptist pastor–turned–financial planner. His farm, which he runs with his ag-major daughter, Leah, is a hobby; on opening day, this hobby turned a profit. “Buy as much as you want,” Stanley said happily.

Paying for the produce was easy—the Sustainable Food Center (SFC), which has established several other farmers’ markets, lets shoppers use debit cards to purchase wooden coins in dollar denominations. Business was brisk.

“As the season goes on, we’ll be putting on kids’ cooking classes and demos for adults,” said SFC director Suzanne Santos. “We’re right near Mandola’s, and Flipnotics is opening a second location at the Triangle. The Triangle development itself has 700 or 800 units. It’s going to be the place to be on Wednesday evenings.”

SFC, whose mission is to offer Central Texans access to fresh, nourishing food, is involved in multiple aspects of local farm products and the lives of those eating them.

SFC recently received funding for its Sprouting Healthy Kids program—a no-holds-barred offensive against poor nutrition and its alarming health consequences for kids in low-income schools.

Using a network of more than 60 local farmers, the Sprouting Healthy Kids staff plans to help school cafeterias buy local produce and take kids on farm tours. Convinced that more children will adopt healthy eating habits once they get personally involved with food, SFC’s staff is organizing school garden projects, nutrition demonstrations by and for kids, and the launch of a healthy snacks cookbook.

For ideas, they might try a trip to the Triangle on a Wednesday evening.

For more on SFC and the Triangle Farmers’ Market, visit sustainablefoodcenter.org.

Austin Farmers’ Market at the Triangle
Wednesdays, 4–8 p.m.
Triangle Park, 4600 Guadalupe
512-236-0074