On Thursday afternoons, you will find a bustling throng of vendors in San Gabriel Park, just across from Bob’s Catfish. Fresh, locally-grown produce, honey, jellies, beef, granola and baked goods are offered weekly from 3:30 p.m. to 6:30 p.m. by the Georgetown Farmers Market Association.
Shoppers find themselves among a small crowd who drove, walked and biked down to the park to buy food, meet community members, reduce and discuss the differences between melons and seasonal squash–receiving unexpected education on a variety of nutritional issues. Did you know that Vitamin Water is colored with mashed cactus bugs? Check your label, this natural coloring is called continental extract. Tony Burnett of Kallisto Gaia Farm in Davilla, filled me in while I sampled prickly pear jelly on a graham cracker. The Burnett family raises all of their produce using sustainable organic farming practices, offering cantaloupes, arugula, okra and over 14 types of lettuce, as well as spinach, radishes, cabbages, squash and cucumbers. Be sure to check out his melons when you visit the market.
Mary Bost, who began beekeeping with her late husband Robert over 50 years ago, comes out to the market every week, supplying Bost Bees honey products. Bost Bees, which 10 years ago supplied over six area H-E-B groceries, is currently offered at Monument Cafe, Gus’s Drug and The Feed Store. Mary and Robert Bost, former area educators, built up their hives and honey-making business after retiring. Mary still keeps her own bees and maintains active membership in the Williamson County Area Beekeepers Association. The WCABA, which has over 100 active members, meets monthly, providing area scholarships and crowning an annual WCABA Honey Queen, who travels to the Texas State Fair to participate in cooking demonstrations.
As you visit with vendors, shopping and tasting produce, one aspect of this market is visible throughout: excellent food. The market offers a unique selection to those who care about more than prices, choosing locally grown options out of interest for where and how their food was produced. The Georgetown Farmers Market has been providing affordable, fresh food to the community for over 25 years.
In addition to benefits for local foodies, the market reduces barriers of entry for local entrepreneurs, who are only required to pay a $40.00 association fee initially, allowing bakers, farmers and gardeners an accessible marketplace. Georgetown Farmers Market Association is 45 producers strong and still growing. Southwestern’s own Garden Club has been bursting and blooming on campus and intends to join the farmers market to sell what they grow in order to finance future activities.
An Austin-based Great Harvest Bread Company vendor shared a range of samples, from spinach feta loaves to pumpkin bread. Great Harvest is America’s first family of independently owned and operated whole grain bread bakeries, which began back in the 1970s and now has over 200 bakeries across the United States, each baking goods with locally produced grains.
Just two booths down, Jean Brooks, master baker of Serious Sourdough, an organic artisan-style bakery, provided delicious samples and details of her own baking methods. Her all-natural wheat loaves require a three-day process of completion. Pie selections included six apple with cranberry, sweet potato with pecan streusel and pineapple pear custard (made with market fruits).
The face-to-face interaction between producers and consumers cultivates an appreciation for the commitment to provide the highest quality produce not available at H-E-B or even Whole Foods Market, where many campus students drive over 25 miles to buy organic. This local grower market requires vendors to sell their own produce, allowing shoppers to meet the grower and understand how products were produced and prepared. Turns out organic, whole foods are just around the corner at San Gabriel Park. Sneak a pirate bike off campus and cruise down the market on Thursday, the free samples certainly surpass Sodexho.
For more information on The Georgetown Farmers Market Association, visit here.