Healthy Local Food Options Keep Growing
The number of options for local, organic and sustainably grown food available here in Austin just continues to grow. We have farmers markets, locally stocked grocery stores, health-touting chains and other choices coming down the pipeline as well. With all that access to fresh produce, it’s no wonder Austin was named one of the healthiest cities in the country thanks to our consumption of whole foods.
We’ve put together a round-up of some of the new, expanding and yet-to-come initiatives that aim to keep Austin eating green.
HOPE Farmers Market moves to Plaza Saltillo
HOPE, the little farmers market that could, has been hosting local vendors, artists and crafters, as well as music and programs like a bike repair shop, for three years in the small space at Pine Street Station at 5th and Waller. Beginning in March, as the market continues to change and grow, it’ll move down the street to Plaza Saltillo.
“The eccentric, funky nature of Pine Street Station lent itself well to this first, amazing phase of HOPE,” said Heather Frambach, community outreach manager for the market. “Yet as the cultural landscape of Austin, and particularly East Austin, continues to rapidly grow and change, HOPE has affirmatively decided to take a hard look at itself and its role in the East Austin community.”
HOPE has been talking to residents, attending community meetings and forming partnerships to help define their direction, and as a result, “changes have been taking place within the market, including engaging with local gardeners to sell produce grown in East Austin and expanded music offerings that reflect the neighborhood's cultural roots in Tejano and conjunto groups,” Frambach added.
Although Plaza Saltillo is a short three blocks from Pine Street Station, Frambach said her group feels it will be a physical and symbolic relocation, adding, “we believe that as a beautiful and potent space that figures largely in the neighborhood's history it is ideal for representing HOPE's reboot as an inclusive and highly visible community project.”
In addition to the relocation, HOPE recently started accepting EBT cards as payment (from the federal Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program) and is conducting a pilot project called the HOPE Farm Stand, which sources surplus produce from East Austin farms and gardens that would otherwise go to waste and is instead sold at an affordable price at the market.
“I see the Farm Stand as a great way to both increase access to affordable, high-quality food in East Austin as well as engage with neighborhood gardeners from different backgrounds whose crops and cultivation techniques reflect the values of community self-care we strive for,” Frambach said.
CitySprout, a Food-Based Social Marketplace, Moves to Austin
A new service that started in Massachusetts expanded to Austin recently. CitySprout is an online, social marketplace connecting customers to local food. Customers enter their ZIP code at citysprout.com to join “communities” (groups of people who live near one another and are interested in receiving local food offers) near them or start their own. Farmers and local food producers then use CitySprout to find communities near their location and post food offers that the community can opt to purchase and which will then be delivered at a predetermined time and location. Farmers set their own prices and CitySprout just takes a relatively small (15 percent) slice off the top.
“We asked our area farmers many questions about what challenges they faced, and asked ourselves how technology could help small farms and local food producers to meet these challenges,” said Jesse Mayhew, CitySprout director of communications.
Although the program is available around the country, CitySprout is focusing its promotional efforts on Austin thanks to our year-round growing season, abundant and highly regarded local agriculture and passionate-about-food population.
“It's our hope that the same Austin area farmers that frequent Austin's farmers markets will find CitySprout to be an exciting new platform,” Mayhew said. “Many farmers find CitySprout more convenient than a farmers market in that we take the speculation out of things. Through CitySprout, farmers only need to pack up and transport what they have already sold.”
For the consumer, unlike the CSA or “farm share” model, there is no upfront prepayment, membership fee or commitment.
“You can purchase your weekly vegetables one week, and skip it the next if you are going to be out of town,” Mayhew added. “CitySprout community members also can also enjoy a wide variety of farmers and food producers. In Austin alone, we recently received food producer applications from a local honey farmer, as well as a producer of artisanal jams.”
in.gredients Hits Its Six-Month Mark
The zero waste, anti-packaging East Austin grocery store in.gredients, 2610 Manor Road, opened in August 2012 and owners are “happy with how our business is growing and changing,” said Chelsea Davis, a store representative.
“There are a lot of exciting things happening in 2013, and we hope to build more community around sustainable food and mindful shopping,” she added. “We're looking to host more community events, partnering with some great Austin organizations.”
in.gredients is dedicated to not only sustainable food sourcing but also to sustainable business practices in the store. Shoppers bring their own containers and bags, purchase what they need and leave no waste, as their containers can be used again next time.
“By shopping at in.gredients you can leave the store without any unnecessary food or packaging, which lowers food waste and the amount of garbage you send to the landfill,” Davis said.
The store also aims to be a community gathering place, where folks can grab a snack, a beer and have a seat on the front patio. The patio also features an Urban Patchwork farm, which grows produce sold in the store, and neighbors can bring in their backyard produce for sale as well.
“We are a blend of a grocery store, convenience store and hang out spot. At in.gredients you can grab a pint of beer, get your shopping done and then relax outside on the porch,” Davis said. “Also, by shopping at in.gredients you are supporting a local business, with the money going back into the community. We work hard to source a majority of our products from local farms, ranchers and vendors. When you shop at in.gredients, your dollar stays in Austin.”
Wheatsville Announces Details of Second Store
As we reported earlier this month, Wheatsville has provided a few more details about their second store, a long-desired South Austin location at South Lamar and Ben White. The store will feature an expanded deli, demonstration areas and a bakery, as well as expanded shopping square footage. For more information, see our full story here.
“We think CSAs and farmers markets are great places to buy local products. As a community owned co-op we want to give our customers the same opportunity for farm fresh, interesting, locally made products the other six days of the week,” said Raquel Dadomo, Wheatsville’s brand manager. “By giving farmers and vendors a reliable market, we can help increase the amount of locally produced food that’s produced in and around Austin.”
Highland Mall Adds a Farmers Market
As we reported in early December, Barton Creek Farmers Market has expanded to a new location, Sundays in the parking lot of the Highland Mall. The farmers market is part of a plan from Austin Community College (which owns the mall) to revitalize the area, making it a walkable live, work, play, study destination for ACC students and others. Read the full store here.
Chains Keep on Coming
In addition to the smaller options and farmers markets, there will be additional big players entering the Austin organic market this year. Trader Joe’s has announced plans for its first Austin-area store in the Seaholm development, a revitalization project planned for the old Seaholm Power Plant, which will break ground in July.
Will all of these new additions, 2013 looks to be a banner year for Austinites to eat healthy and local.