Here are a few recent food-related stories in the Statesman, as well as some thoughts on a story in today’s Metro section about a new "indoor farmers market" proposed for East Fifth Street:Matthew Odam profiled the family behind El Patio, the 60-year-old UT-area restaurant, and has the latest openings and closings, including a brick and mortar from The Peached Tortilla, Gus’s Fried Chicken downtown, and a South Austin spot called Porter Gastropub that I’m particularly excited about, in his column, The Feed.Earlier this month, he also had a really nice write-up about Foreign & Domestic’s Indie Chefs Week, which has even more energy and collaborative spirit than I’d expected when it first launched last year.Last week, the initial line-up for the Austin Food & Wine Festival was announced. The event will take place April 24-27 at Butler Park.Aaron Franklin’s brisket gig with KLRU just got a whole lot more interesting.Noted Los Angeles cocktail entreprenuer Chris Bostick is finally opening is long-awaited Austin project, Half Step, on Rainey Street next week.A new food trailer park called The Picnic is set to open on Barton Springs Road later this year. Tenants include some of the best-known SoCo vendors, including Mighty Cone and Hey Cupcake!.Speaking of food trailers, a new one called The Unconventional Oven is garnering quite a bit of attention for its opening party on Friday because it booked a certain ‘Home Alone’ celebrity, who plays kazoo in a band called The Pizza Underground.In today’s Statesman, I read with interest Sarah Coppola’s story about a project planned for East Fifth Street called Fair Market, which "will host a farmers market once or twice a week, and will be rented to other events, such as flea markets, craft fairs and private gatherings," according to developer Richard Kooris said. He hopes to eventually add a café and short-term "pop-up" retail spaces, Coppola writes.
I’m glad Coppola talked to the Sustainble Food Center and the folks behind the HOPE Farmers Market, which already host farmers markets in the area. Like them, I’m skeptical about the city’s push to open a so-called "public market" downtown, which my intuition is telling me would likely be a "farmers market" in name only and whose purpose is more for marketing than really giving farmers and customers a reliable outlet for selling and buying food.
There are already more than a dozen farmers markets in the Austin area, taking place on every day except Monday, Thursday and Friday, and the number of markets is actually hurting area farmers because they are having to work more markets to make the same amount of money they used to make on only one or two markets a week.
Staffing all these markets, not to mention proposed businesses like this one, keep them away from the farms, where they are needed to oversee production of the actual food consumers want to buy. And as for the claim that this would be Austin’s first "indoor farmers market"? I can’t be the only person in Austin who remembers this Greenhouse Indoor Farmer’s Market that tried to get off the ground a few years ago in a former Albertson’s space at West Gate and William Cannon.
I toured the building when it was first getting started and had my doubts that it would work for either farmers or consumers, and to be honest, I have no idea how long it was actually open.
Maybe a multi-purpose space on East Fifth Street that has a few food vendors a few days a week will work and be of benefit to the local economy, including food businesses, but I wouldn’t go so far as to call it a "farmers market," especially if there are no restrictions on if the "farmers" are actually people reselling produce from outside Central Texas.