In Austin, A New Mobile Farmers Market Will Travel to Food Deserts
This fall, certain neighborhoods around Austin, Texas—some of which don’t have a single grocery store—will gain access to farm-fresh organic produce, thanks to this pilot program.
Farmshare Austin, the non-profit behind the idea, recently received a $50,000 grant from the city to help launch the innovative program. Essentially a farmers market on wheels, the vehicle will make designated weekly stops in neighborhoods that currently lack access to organic fruits and vegetables, both in Austin, including Hornsby Bend, and other parts of Travis County, such as Del Valle.
“Large areas of the city and county do not have full-service grocery stores, and it can be difficult for people in these places to get fresh, affordable food for themselves and their families,” Taylor Cook, Farmshare Austin’s executive director, tells Modern Farmer. The market will target four areas, for now, that need the service most, and it will park in each district through an afternoon and evening. Cook says besides offering fresh seasonal produce from the organization’s 7-acre organic farm, they will also offer other staples, like cooking oil, on hand, so residents will have access to everything they need to cook a meal. The program accepts SNAP benefits and participates in the Sustainable Food Center’s Double Dollars program, allowing consumers using food assistance to double their buyer power for fruits and vegetables. The pilot program will begin next month and run through the end of December. Cook says they hope to expand the mobile farmers market program in the coming years.
This rollout is just one of the latest mobile farmers markets to launch across the country. Folks have launched similarly creative solutions in places as diverse as New Orleans, Washington DC, and central Arkansas.
At Farmshare Austin, the mobile market also provides a learning opportunity. Founded in 2013 to train the next generation of farmers in central Texas and to address local food access issues, among other objectives, the organization operates a 20-week organic farming program called “Farmer Starter” in Garfield, about 20 minutes southeast of Austin. There, students learn how to manage a sustainable farming business, and those same trainees will staff the mobile market as part of their coursework.
“Everyone’s really excited about this program,” says Cook. “It’s a big deal for many people to finally have easy access t0 fresh, local produce.”