Change isn't always a good thing.
I was more than a little worried a few weeks back when news spread that the former Sunset Valley Farmers Market was changing its name and moving to Barton Creek Square mall.
At the encouragement of several vendors and farmers, the Sustainable Food Center submitted an application to the city of Sunset Valley, an enclave in South Austin, to set up a farmers' market near the Burger Center.
The relationship between the Austin Independent School District, which owns the Burger Center property, and the Sunset Valley Farmers Market folks had dissolved. The market had lost its lease and was looking to sign a new one.
A mall isn't an obvious choice, but with less than a week's notice last month, many of the vendors who'd been selling produce, meat, dairy, crafts and even poems at the Burger Center for years set up shop in the northeast corner of the Barton Creek Square parking lot.
However, a good number of the vendors decided to stay in Sunset Valley, switching to the market now run by the Sustainable Food Center, which also operates the farmers' markets at downtown on Saturdays and the Triangle on Wednesdays.
After a few weeks to let the dust settle, I went to both of the markets to see how they were faring, and I couldn't be happier to report that they are as thriving as they are different.
The new Barton Creek Farmers Market has always allowed more vendors who sell crafts, prepared food and artwork than the Sustainable Food Center's certified growers' markets, where 51 percent of the vendors have to be growers or producers.
Last Saturday, I found that the jubilant fairlike vibe has followed the market to the mall parking lot, which is situated on a big hill overlooking the Austin skyline. Many of the familiar artists, jewelry makers and even Jena Gessaman, a fixture at the market who types poems on the spot on her old-fashioned typewriter, are right next to vegetable growers and other food artisans.
The new market at Sunset Valley has the feel of the downtown market before it moved into the Republic Square Park earlier this year. A long line of vendors, primarily farmers and meat producers, and a healthy number of customers, including a girl with her own little shopping cart, stocking up on goods.
Many familiar produce growers and meat producers who've always been in Sunset Valley are still in Sunset Valley, but there certainly wasn't a lack of vegetables, meat and dairy available at the Barton Creek market. A handful of vendors who have been selling at the downtown market are now selling at both the downtown and Sunset Valley markets.
I didn't seen any signs of discontent among vendors or customers after this big switch, which indicates that there's enough of a demand for locally sourced goods — from milk and cabbage to black-and-white photography and handcrafted poems — that there's plenty of room for both markets.
Since I'm hitting up new markets, I figured I was overdue in shopping at the Truck Farm Farmers Market, which opened about six weeks ago at the northeast corner of Capital of Texas Highway (Loop 360) and Bee Cave Road in West Lake Hills.
Tucked away behind a flock of plastic flamingos and bluebonnets, the market takes place from 3 to 7 p.m. on Thursdays and, as of last weekend, 1 to 5 p.m. on Sundays.
You won't find a sign, but you'll see the flamingos before you see the vendors, who are set up underneath the ample shade of the trees at the Pots and Plants Garden Center (aka the Flamingo Place).
Farmers, ranchers and artisans are selling everything from grass-fed meat to freshly harvested produce. Vendors also include Retro Bizzaro, Tommy's Salsa, Me Myself and Pie, San Antonio cheesemakers Humble House Foods, Texas French Bread and Arte Y Chocolate, as well as people selling soap, wine, pizza and Mediterranean food.
The nursery has even set up tables covered in white tablecloths so you can enjoy the laid-back feel of the market while nibbling on food you've bought.
One of the best things I tried at the market was new gluten-free cookies from Austin market staples Jake's Granola.
Jake's owner David Levy says the so-called biscotelle are twice-baked cookies similar to biscotti, but unique in their own way. "Most people who go gluten-free feel like they have to imitate gluten-full," he says. Instead of trying to re-create a familiar product, Levy says, he wanted to create a crispier, lighter sugar cookie type of treat with rice flour. The pistachio biscotelle I tried had that perfect melt-in-your-mouth crumble and burst of sweetness you'd expect from a cookielike treat, gluten-free or not.
You'll find the biscotelle ($5, choose from white chocolate orange, chocolate chocolate walnut, almond, lemon poppy, pistachio crusted raspberry flavors) exclusively at the downtown, Truck Farm, HOPE and Cedar Park farmers' markets.
"Farmers' market (shoppers) are our focus group," Levy says. "It allows us to hear right on the spot what people think" and then adjust the product before it hits coffeeshops and the online store.