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. Our team of contributors has put together an updated guide to farmers’ markets in and around San Antonio so you and your family can get in the habit of shopping fresh 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 even 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 round 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 muffin from Sol y Luna Baking Co. or a fruity popsicle from Poptopia Pops.
How do you choose which farmers’ market to visit? Find local listings at Edible San Antonio (online and on newsstands), GoTexan (Texas Department of Agriculture), 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. (Several markets from our 2016 edition have closed, while others have opened.)
To help you choose, we’ve classified local farmers’ markets into four different types: the Classic, the Mega, the Mini-Gourmet, 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. More Classic markets: multiple locations of the South Texas Farmers Market, the Legacy Farmers’ Market in the Stone Oak area, the Deerfield Farmers’ Market, and the RIM Farmers’ Market.
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. New in 2017: the market has relocated to Pearl Park (an open area with artificial turf and a splash pad), and there is now a food hall on the ground floor of the Bottling Department building. 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 and the Alamo Heights Farmers Market (located at the Alamo Quarry Market and managed by the Koch Ranches family). 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). A new indoor market is the Mid-Week Market hosted by Truckin’ Tomato at the Local Sprout Food Hub.
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 at Main Plaza and on the west, south, and east sides of town. Read more in this article from 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 like Marburger Orchard (where Candice‘s kids picked strawberries) or stop at a roadside produce stand.
San Antonio has many opportunities for families to learn about healthy eating. This fall, the San Antonio Botanical Garden will open a culinary garden and outdoor kitchen. Culinaria San Antonio is building The Farm, an innovative urban farm and education center. The San Antonio Food Bank and CHEF (a project of the Goldsbury Foundation) are bringing nutrition education into the community. The Food Bank operates a farm at Mission San Juan to educate visitors about historical practices. 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 Gastronomy Company offers private cooking lessons; read about Amy’s experience. 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.