When it comes to food, kids have opinions. Oh, yes, they do! A great way to get kids to try new, healthy foods is to take them to a farmers’ market and let them choose for themselves. Everything is laid out and easy to see, it’s all fresh and local, and the markets often have fun extras to make your visit special. With help from our team, especially Dawn, we have put together a guide to farmers’ markets in and around San Antonio so you and your family can get in the habit of visiting a market near you.
There are many reasons for families to love farmers’ markets:
- Local: Most farmers’ markets carry foods that are grown nearby. You can learn more about your food—sometimes event talk to the farmer who grew it—and when different foods are in season. Your food is fresher, and has a smaller carbon footprint, because it hasn’t traveled as far.
- Healthy: Farmers’ markets tend to feature plant-based foods, sustainable growing practices, and humanely raised meats.
- Beautiful: The markets are inviting places to go outside and spend time together as a family. Many markets have extras like prepared foods, picnic tables, live music, crafts, games, demonstrations, and more.
Here are some strategies for successful farmers’ market shopping as a family.
- Gear: Bring reusable shopping bags. If you’re planning to stock up on frozen foods like ground meats, sausages, or tamales, then bring a cooler, too.
- Money: Many vendors take credit or debit cards and some take WIC, but we bring cash and, if possible, lots of ones and fives to make life easier for the vendors. The prices are often in rounds numbers, so my kids can do math in their heads.
- Choices: Go out on a limb and buy an unusual vegetable, but not too many at once, because the kids will probably only take a taste and then mom and dad will get stuck eating the rest.
- Quantity: Shop in moderation, but shop regularly—every week, if possible. Good habits make good choices easier.
- Treats: Celebrate your market trip with something yummy, like a paleo brownie from Poppi and Sons or a fruity popsicle from Poptopia Pops.
How do you choose which farmers’ market to visit? Find local listings at Edible San Antonio, FitCitySA, and NowCastSA. Because farmers’ markets are startup businesses that can sprout up quickly or close suddenly, you might want to call ahead or check social media before your visit.
To help you choose, we’ve classified local farmers’ markets into five different types: the Classic, the Mega, the Mini-Gourmet, the Enlightened, and the Oasis.
The Classic farmers’ market specializes in fresh produce. For decades, the San Antonio Farmer’s Market Association has held produce markets on Tuesdays and Saturdays in the Olmos Basin, in an unpaved lot at the corner of Jackson-Keller and McCullough. Their website lists additional locations across the city, including a revived Live Oak market on Tuesdays from 9:00 A.M. to 1:00 P.M. at the Alamo Colleges University Center. More Classic markets: the Legacy Outdoor Market in the Stone Oak area and the Hill Country Farmers’ Market, with multiple locations.
The Mega farmers’ market has a balance of fresh produce, meats, and prepared foods. The Pearl Farmers Market is the epitome of the Mega market in San Antonio—with live music, demonstrations, and a unique location on the Museum Reach of the River Walk. The Pearl can provide hours of entertainment, and it’s a wonderful place to take out-of-town guests and multi-generational groups. The New Braunfels Farmers’ Market is also a well-rounded experience.
A Mini-Gourmet farmers’ market is smaller than a Mega, but still has plenty of choices to supply a week’s worth of seasonal fruits and veggies, plus prepared foods like croissants and sausages. In central San Antonio, good examples are the 78209 Farmers’ Market, Castle Hills Farm to Market, and the Dignowity Hill Farmers’ Market. To the northeast, visit the Cibolo Grange market. To the northwest, see the MarketPlace at Old Town Helotes and the Farmers’ Market at the Cibolo (as mentioned in an earlier post about children in nature).
The Enlightened farmers’ market feeds the mind as well as the body. At the Trinity Market, in addition to shopping for fresh foods and gourmet eats, you can practice yoga or, like Amanda, learn Bollywood dance. The Tobin Center‘s monthly FarmArt Market emphasizes performances and demonstrations. Also downtown, check out Mercado de O’liva and the People’s Nite Market at La Villita.
The Oasis brings fresh produce to food deserts—areas of town where the selection of fresh foods is limited. The San Antonio Food Bank Farmers’ Market Association has locations in Main Plaza and on the west and east sides of town. Read more in a recent article in the San Antonio Express-News.
Besides shopping at farmers’ markets, there are more ways to enjoy fresh foods with your kids. If you work regularly at a community garden, then you can collect a share of the produce. If you head towards Fredericksburg or other rural communities, you can take your family to a pick-your-own orchard or stop at a roadside produce stand.
San Antonio is seeing a boom in new opportunities for families to learn about healthy eating. Culinaria San Antonio is building The Farm, an innovative urban farm and education center. Nutrition education is happening at the San Antonio Food Bank and, through the Goldsbury Foundation‘s CHEF program, at the Children’s Hospital of San Antonio. The Witte Museum’s H-E-B Body Adventure has a demonstration kitchen that offers classes, camps, and parties. Cooking classes for kids are offered at H-E-B, Central Market, Young Chef’s Academy, and Sur La Table. The annual San Antonio Book Festival has a cooking tent with chef demonstrations.
I hope this guide helps you and your family on the journey to healthier eating. Please leave a comment to share your family’s farmers’ market tips.