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



Evidently, San Antonio has a downtown farmers’ market. At least that’s what I’ve been told. I’ve never known anyone to actually go to one of these markets, and that’s 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. I’ve heard of migrant farm workers but not migrant farmers’ markets, which sounds like what we have. Produce is on the run. It’s lamentable.

I was told that there is a plan to have a farmers’ 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 I’m 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 I’m talking about is an Organic Viking Funeral. If a farmers’ 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 farmers’ 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 I’m going. That farmers’ 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 it’s busy, yet people will only go to a farmers’ market if it is busy. I think this speaks to the social aspect and sense of community a farmers’ market is expected to offer.

So, for our farmers’ 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 — all that. It’s 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 doesn’t seem to count, although the meat counter is fabulous and the chicharron tacos are among the best in town.) That’s possibly because building a large yuppie grocery store isn’t 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 isn’t working and this proposed alternative could be the best way to go out. A six-month window for success could be set. If it doesn’t 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. We’ll 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.