Ten years ago, San Antonio’s idea of a farmers market was little more than a roadside stand with some fruits and vegetables out of the back of a pickup truck. There were some exceptions, such as the Saturday get-together in the Olmos Basin, where you could get fresh eggs and even some exotic items mixed in with the usual array of zucchini, squash and beans as well as the ever-popular tomatoes and peaches.
But the audience was small. That would change within five years, when the Pearl Farmers Market opened. It wasn’t just the market and the initial wave of interest in the renovation project that had begun at the once-abandoned brewery. People’s eating habits had begun to change. They wanted something fresher, more organic and different from what they could get at most supermarkets.
But they got more than that. They found ranchers selling grass-fed beef as well as humanely raised pork and chicken. They found local bakers, a local chocolatier, winemakers, a bee keeper with raw local honey and Sandy Oaks with its locally produced olive oil. There were also food vendors, herb growers, musicians, cooking events and plenty of dogs, all of which made the Pearl a destination on Saturday mornings.
Suddenly, it was easy to see that the brightest and best flavors for you to put on your table could be bought year-round from your very own region. Within a short time, leeks, pattypan squash, fennel, daikon radish, kohlrabi, an assortment of mushrooms, purple carrots and okra, candy stripe beets and baby artichokes all came to be a part of what’s grown in the region and offered at the markets.
Other markets have joined the scene, but perhaps none has made as much an impact as the Quarry Farmers and Ranchers Market, which celebrated its third anniversary recently. This Sunday morning spot, in the parking lot of the Quarry shopping center at 255 E. Basse Road, has a decidedly different vibe and yet it offers many of the same items, from fresh produce and local baked goods to live music and food treats. With more than 30 booths, the array is rich, whether you’re looking for seasonal fruits, vegetables and herbs, locally raised meats or locally processed foods.
So, whether you shop on Saturday or Sunday, at the Pearl or the Quarry or any of the other markets in the region, you have greater choices for eating healthier than ever before, thanks to the growth of farmers markets in the area.