The Austin Chronicle

SFC Farmers' Market East

Reviewed by Kate Thornberry, April 27, 2012, Food

Tuesdays, 10am-1pm, YMCA parking lot, 5315 Ed Bluestein

One of the unfortunate by-products of our food system is that grocery stores often choose to close less profitable stores in poorer neighborhoods, creating what is called a "food desert," where wholesome food is harder to come by than in prosperous areas. Indeed, even stores that don't close often cut down or eliminate fresh fruits and vegetables, as they are more of an operating expense than shelf-stable foods.

To counteract this, the Sustainable Food Center has added a farmers' market during the week to address the lack of access to fresh, organic, locally grown, affordable food experienced by many East Austin residents. And to sweeten the deal, SFC has implemented a Double Dollar Incentive Program: Those who buy $10 worth of fruits or vegetables with a Simplified Nutritional Assist­ance Program, or SNAP, card, or WIC Lone Star card can go to the information booth and receive $10 worth of tokens to double their money's purchasing power.

The array of vendors is substantial, and includes Dos Lunas Arti­san Cheese; Johnson's Backyard Garden, with every vegetable remotely in season; Simmons Family Farms selling seasonal vegetables; Markley Family Farm (strawberries, blackberries, peaches, tomatoes); Naegelin Farms (seasonal fruit and vegetables), Texas Produce Farm (herbs and greens), Munkebo Farm (produce, plus goose, quail, guinea hen, and duck eggs), Swede Farm Dairy (goat cheese and goat milk, including chocolate milk, to which I can only say, OMG that sounds delicious); specialty vendors such as Texas Coffee Traders, Round Rock Honey, Wunder-Pilz Kombu­cha; and baked goods by Cake & Spoon. Also participating are prepared food vendors TacoDeli, Happy Vegan, organic Gardener's Feast tamales, and Kala's Kuisine, making the farmers' market a convenient lunch stop for area workers.

The new market has plenty of parking and is right off 183, convenient to the entire Northeast sector of Austin. SFC Market Director Suzanne Santos has been thrilled with the initial response. "We didn't go into this blind, we did a lot of research," she says. "We had focus groups, everything, the whole works. What we discovered is that the best time for many shoppers is on weekday mornings, after the kids go to school. The families we want to serve told us that this would be a convenient, workable time for them, and attendance has been exponential as the word gets out."

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