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Highland Lakes farmers’ markets bring together communities over good food

Fresh zucchini and summer squash are just a few of the locally grown produce available at local farmers' markets. Vegetables and fruit are only a part of what people can find at these markets across the Highland Lakes. Customers can check out locally raised, grass-fed beef and poultry, jams and jellies, salsas, handmade crafts and even wine. Staff photo by Daniel Clifton

DANIEL CLIFTON • PICAYUNE EDITOR

LLANO — As the breezes waft along the banks of the Llano River at Llano’s Crenwelge Park, the smell of spices mix with the aromas of herbs. It all blends together with the voices of growers and buyers during the Llano Farmers’ Country Market.“The smells of the herbs and the spices are amazing,” said Doris Messer of Llano’s Main Street Program. “It was like walking through the market in Cairo, but it was here in Llano.”

Every Saturday through the fall, local farmers and crafts people gather at the park, located on the south banks of the Llano River and just east of Texas 16, to sell homegrown produce and handmade items.

But it’s not just about the fresh produce. It’s about the community.

“Farmers’ markets bring a lot of people out just to mingle and get to know each other,” Messer said. “It’s a great way to meet your neighbors. Plus, where else but a farmers’ market do you get to talk with the person who actually grew the food you’re buying?”

Farmers’ markets are gaining popularity across the country as well as the Highland Lakes. According to the United States Department of Agriculture, the number of listed farmers’ markets has grown from about 2,800 in 2000 to more than 7,800 in 2012.

The Highland Lakes boasts several itself including ones in Burnet, Bertram, Marble Falls and Llano.

The Bertram Farmers’ Market celebrated its second year starting May 31. The event came about after organizers Dickie Allen and Loy Ogden put it together following their retirement. Ogden said the inaugural year was good, but he hopes the market will continue to grow.

Fresh zucchini and summer squash are just a few of the locally grown produce available at local farmers' markets. Vegetables and fruit are only a part of what people can find at these markets across the Highland Lakes. Customers can check out locally raised, grass-fed beef and poultry, jams and jellies, salsas, handmade crafts and even wine. Staff photo by Daniel Clifton
Fresh zucchini and summer squash are just a few of the locally grown produce available at local farmers’ markets. Vegetables and fruit are only a part of what people can find at these markets across the Highland Lakes. Customers can check out locally raised, grass-fed beef and poultry, jams and jellies, salsas, handmade crafts and even wine. Staff photo by Daniel Clifton

While people flock to larger retail stores for produce and meat, Ogden said it’s hard to beat the items found at a local farmers’ market.

“Everything you find here is fresh,” he said. “We want to have a place where even small gardeners, if they grow too much, have a place to sell their vegetables.”

In Marble Falls, John Crawn is organizing a farmers’ market for the first time at the Marble Falls VFW Post 1036. After retiring from a 40-year career in the produce industry, he decided he still needed something to do and putting together a farmers’ market sounded like a good idea.

“People can just come out and set a booth up and sell their things,” he said. “There’s a lot of little gardens around Marble Falls and Granite Shoals where, maybe, (the gardener) has extra vegetables. Well, they can put it out here, and people can buy them.”

As far as local farmers’ markets go, the Burnet Farmers’ Market, held every Saturday on the Courthouse Square in Burnet, probably ranks as one of the longest running. The Highland Lakes Master Gardeners Association organizes and sponsors the event. As with the other markets, the Burnet event highlights locally grown and produced items.

The interest from local consumers has grown over the years, said Quanah Green of the Master Gardeners.

“People are really interested in knowing where their food comes from and who grows it,” she said. “I think people are really seeing the benefits, both for themselves and the local farmers, when they buy from farmers’ markets.”

Farmers’ markets provide producers with a way to sell their fruit and vegetables, and even meats, directly to customers. According to a United Kingdom report, each dollar spent at a local farmers’ market circulates within the particular community several times before leaving. That means the money changing hands at a farmers’ market has a more enduring impact on the local economy.

This isn’t always the case with other money exchanges when once payment leaves a person’s hand it, or a portion of it, heads out of the community.

People can find new or different items during the months a farmers’ market is open.

“Every week is different,” Green said. “You always find something new.”

Ogden agreed.

“Right now, I have squash, onions and some greens,” he said. “There may be a few tomatoes, but we’ll start seeing them later in June and the summer. Every week, there’s more and more items right through July.”

The idea, several farmers’ market organizers said, was to keep coming back week after week to see what’s available. Sometimes, people might find vegetables or fruit they weren’t even aware grew in the area.

And it’s not just fruits and vegetables. Customers can find fresh eggs and locally raised grass-fed beef and chicken at several Highland Lakes farmers’ markets.

Green said she has a vendor from Georgetown who sells olive oil and related products. It’s not something typically found in Texas.

“Every farmers’ market, even from weekend to weekend, is unique,” Messer said. “It’s always changing. Going to a farmers’ market is like going on a treasure hunt. You never know what you may discover.”

daniel@thepicayune.com

HIGHLAND LAKES FARMERS’ MARKETS

• Llano Farmers Country Market, 8-11 a.m. Saturdays at Crenwelge Park in Llano, (325) 247-4158)

• Bertram Farmers’ Market, 3-6:30 p.m. Fridays at 1450 Texas 29 in Bertram, (512) 657-1995)

• Burnet County Farmers’ Market, 9 a.m.-1 p.m. Saturdays on the Courthouse Square in Burnet

• Marble Falls VFW Post 10376 Farmers’ Market, 9 a.m. until “whenever” Fridays-Sundays at 1001 Veterans Ave. (west of the McDonald’s on RR 1431) in Marble Falls, (512) 909-3946