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Columns > Last Words

An open letter to Farmers-Market True Believers, people with hangovers on Sunday morning, and Vikings

Illustration by Chuck Kerr

 

Evidently, San Antonio has a downtown farmersí market. At least thatís what Iíve been told. Iíve never known anyone to actually go to one of these markets, and thatís one of the problems. No one seems to know about it.

Various past locations have been mentioned: a field off McCullough by the roller rink, a park downtown off Houston Street, the Botanical Garden, to name a few. Iíve heard of migrant farm workers but not migrant farmersí markets, which sounds like what we have. Produce is on the run. Itís lamentable.

I was told that there is a plan to have a farmersí market on Thursdays at the Botanical Garden, one on Friday at Main Plaza, and a third on Saturday at Pearl Brewery. Given that none of the past versions have been successful enough to make an impression, it seems a little bit crazy to go ahead and have three. What Iím proposing is something equally dicey, but ultimately more sensible and potentially rewarding. There should be one location and one time per week: Sunday mornings in King William.

What Iím talking about is an Organic Viking Funeral. If a farmersí market is going to fail in San Antonio, then we should at least give it the best chance at success, and if it still fails, then we go out in style, burn it down, send it down the river, and move on. (More on the Viking part in a second.)

The most successful farmersí market in the country might be in Hollywood. Several factors make it a hit: It is at the same time and in the same place each week; it transcends the purchase of locally grown crops; it is a place one can bring the dog to walk around while drinking coffee and trying to blunt a hangover; and lastly, it is a place for people-watching.

If this sounds to you like more than just the exchange of money and produce, then you see where Iím going. That farmersí market is successful because it is about more than just selling fruits and vegetables. It is a place to walk around, to see and be seen, and yes, buy some food for the week.

There is an irony at work here: No one wants to go to the grocery store when itís busy, yet people will only go to a farmersí market if it is busy. I think this speaks to the social aspect and sense of community a farmersí market is expected to offer.

So, for our farmersí market to work we need people selling fruits, vegetables, herbs, weird soaps and oils, exotic frozen meats, plants, freshly made espresso and coffee, plus street performers and musicians trying to make a buck, potentially annoying activists with clipboards collecting signatures, rich people, poor people, dogs on leashes occasionally barking at each other, someone making waffles and smoothies, freshly baked bread, curanderos selling candles ó all that. Itís a big-tent circus.

Another point: There seems to be a never-ending rallying cry over the lack of a real downtown grocery store. (La Michoacana on NoFlo doesnít seem to count, although the meat counter is fabulous and the chicharron tacos are among the best in town.) Thatís possibly because building a large yuppie grocery store isnít deemed economically viable. The Downtown Farmers Market could become that centro grocery store, at least for one day out of the week, and at a much lower cost.

Will this happen? Probably not. However, what we have now isnít working and this proposed alternative could be the best way to go out. A six-month window for success could be set. If it doesnít work by then we create a compost pile of broken dreams, put a torch to it, and send it down to the Valley on a riverboat of no return. It will be our Organic Viking Funeral River Parade. Weíll sleep well at night knowing that we tried. The indifference to failure already makes it a success. In fact, failing might be the most exciting part. ē

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