A Local Produce Paradise: Farmers Markets Show off the Austin Food Scene

Delia Rune, Staff Writer

(For the privacy of the patrons interviewed, no last names were included.)

If one heads downtown on a Saturday morning and turns onto Guadalupe, they are guaranteed to stumble upon a special Austin tradition: the farmers market. Every weekend, dozens of stalls and tents are pitched up and down Guadalupe selling fresh, local goods. And it’s not just downtown that you can find these farmers markets. From Barton Creek to Mueller, you can find one in almost every corner of town. 

The Sustainable Food Center (SFC) runs two of Austin’s biggest farmers markets — the oldest of these being their downtown location on Guadalupe. Every weekend, visitors come and admire the perfectly ripe vegetables, homemade hummus, vintage gifts, and locally sourced milk and eggs. After picking up any gifts or groceries they need, there are dozens of food and beverage vendors that provide Austinites with refreshing treats. 

For residents and tourists, Austin’s farmers markets can be a way to support local businesses and get a taste of Austin’s food scene. According to visitor Brandy, the farmers market’s outdoor location is more pleasant to visit than a cold, fluorescent-lit grocery store. 

“You get a lot of unique stuff [at the farmers market] that you can’t get other places,” Brandy said. “Also, walking around the whole event itself is much more fun!” 

Some of these unique goods include handmade soaps and cosmetics, beeswax, and interesting candies and fudges. Ivan, another farmers market-goer, echoed Brandy’s love of the farmers market’s goods and local offerings. 

“It’s cool to support local,” Ivan said. “You get to buy a lot of stuff that you don’t always get to see at regular grocery stores.”

The farmers market carries different items than a traditional store. Instead of selling many different things, vendors specialize in a few products that they can produce at high quality. For example, Jeremy of Pirate Pickles solely sells specialty pickles, and Marty, who works at Beba’s Pfresh Salsa, only sells homemade salsa.  

“I mean, it’s great, all the things you get [at] the grocery store, but this is what people are growing locally, and it supports the people who do that,” Marty said. “And then, you know, we have a business of salsas. So we’re using a lot of local ingredients to make those. So that’s sort of in the circle of life that supports the local vendors and farmers as well.”

Farmers markets in Austin have been around for decades, and as the city has grown, so have they. Kay Richardson has had a stall at the farmers market for almost 15 years, and confirmed that farmers markets have gotten a lot more popular since she first started. 

“The big thing is the growing number of markets,” Richardson said. “When I started, there were only two in Austin.” 

Now, there are more than 10 farmers markets where both vendors and visitors enjoy themselves. And, according to Marty, despite all the work that goes into the farmers market, vendors are able to focus on enjoying the positive aspects of their job.

 “It’s a lot of fun to meet people and regular customers,” Marty said. “I love seeing all the people, all the dogs, all the kids.”

But, according to Richardson, it’s not always an easy job. Marty agreed that working at the farmers market requires a lot of perseverance and a strong work ethic. 

“There’s always a new fire to put out — a million things can go wrong,” Marty said. “Most of them don’t, but it seems like there’s usually something each week that you didn’t have to deal with the week before. And I like that.”

Marty said the food at the farmers market is always popular. Visitor favorites seem to be peaches, ginger beer, and hummus. However, according to Marty, the people, not the food, are really what make the market. 

“One of the things I love about being here is that I get to compliment people and their dogs,” Marty said. “I like the dogs, and I’ve met the most incredible people here. I’ve made friends here, too.” 

Many farmers markets are pet friendly and some vendors even include free dog treats or biscuits with purchase. Richardson agreed with Marty, and said that the farmer’s market is made special by the people who visit.

“[I like the farmers market] because the customer gets to meet the farmer who raises the meat, eggs, or produce,” Richardson said. “My favorite part of the farmers market is meeting people.”

Many people come to the farmers market for ethically sourced, local products. According to Marty, people, vendors, and businesses all vary, but the market is a constant.

“Vendors come and go, and I always love to see what new people bring to the table.” Marty said. “The faces have changed, but the market will always be what the market always is.”