Austin is losing a farmers market at the end of the month.
After 10 years of bringing local food to Austinites in one of the first mixed-use projects in the city, the SFC Farmers’ Market at the Triangle is closing Oct. 25, according to the Sustainable Food Center, the local nonprofit that runs two other markets in Sunset Valley and downtown.
Joy Casnovsky, the deputy director of SFC, said it was a decision the staff made after many conversations with farmers and other vendors, who reported lower sales in recent years as the number of markets in the area expanded.
More markets means more options for customers — perhaps too many options (see below) — but it means more labor and time away from the farm for the farmers.
“Over the past decade, our Central Texas food community has seen amazing growth in the number of sales opportunities for our local producers, and we are so proud that our Triangle market helped to shape this growth,” Casnovsky wrote in a statement on the website. “Unfortunately, it appears now that this market location is no longer a viable option for our farmers, ranchers and food artisans.”
The Triangle farmers market was the second market that SFC opened, just a few years after opening the downtown location. In 2010, SFC opened a third market in Sunset Valley, which is still open in the Burger Center parking lot, and the longtime market that had been operating in that space became Barton Creek Farmers Market and moved to Barton Creek Square Mall, where it now has a stunning view of the downtown skyline.
The nonprofit said that the proposed last day of the market is Oct. 25, so check the Facebook page for updates.
So, does this closure mean the local food economy is saturated?
Although the Triangle is a rare mid-week farmers’ market in the middle of the city, shoppers these days can choose from more than a dozen farmers’ markets in the Austin area, from the larger markets at Barton Creek Square Mall and Lakeline Mall on Saturdays and the Mueller development and Plaza Saltillo on Sundays, to weekend (and some weekday markets) in Bee Cave, Dripping Springs, Buda, San Marcos, Round Rock and Georgetown that have a small-town feel and a loyal customer base.
The markets in the outer areas of Austin seems to be doing well, even with the expansion of Trader Joe’s, Sprouts’ and Whole Foods’ new 365 store. The organizers of the Williamson County markets are teasing two new markets in Cedar Park, which is already home to Texas Farmers Market’s Lakeline market.
Are customers in the middle of Austin saturated with options? Is the Triangle too off-the-radar for newer Austinites? Are they getting local produce delivered by CSA? Are they hitting up the local farmstands at Boggy Creek, Springdale Farm and Green Gate Farm? Are they growing more food on their own or simply at traditional food stores instead?
My gut says that the mid-week market was too hard for customers to get to, especially as traffic in the city has worsened. There’s no way I can get to that Triangle market from my office downtown — much less my house even farther south — during that weekday afternoon window. But I also know that the farmers who kept the market going for so many years have to be smart about how they spend their time and how much they make at each market. On Facebook, several shoppers commented about the dwindling number of vendors at the market over the past few years.
What do you notice at local farmers markets these days? Are there too many markets or not enough? Did you go to the Triangle market? What will you miss about it?