Farmers markets are a great way to build healthy eating habits as a family. You start out by going to buy some fruits and veggies, and maybe a snack. Along the way you might learn a new recipe and bring the whole family together for a meal and conversation, all while supporting sustainable agriculture.
If you’re new to shopping at farmers markets, how do you find out where to go, or what to do when you get there? Which markets have the best selection of produce, extras like cooking classes, or fun dining experiences? Our team of contributors, with help from our readers, has compiled this guide to farmers markets in and around San Antonio to help you and your family have fun shopping, cooking, and eating healthier.
Benefits of Farmers Markets
Farmers markets have many benefits for families:
- Local. As you visit each booth, you can talk to the farmers and find out where they raised the crops and what is in season. Your kids will learn that food doesn’t just “come from the store,” it’s actually grown by people with specialized skills. Knowing which foods are growing locally at certain times of the year helps us feel connected with the cycles of nature.
- Healthy. Food is medicine—that is the message from CHEF San Antonio, a Culinary Health Education Program from the Goldsbury Foundation that teaches children and families about basic nutrition and practical cooking skills. Families can learn to eat healthier by visiting one of their cooking demos, shopping for ingredients at the farmers market, and then making the recipe at home.
- Beautiful. Farmers markets are fun places to go outside and spend time together as a family, including your pets. Larger markets offer ready-to-eat prepared foods, food trucks, picnic tables, live music, crafts, games, demonstrations, and more.
Farmers Market Shopping Tips
Here are some strategies for successful farmers market shopping as a family:
- Reusable shopping bags are encouraged. Bring a cooler if you’re planning to stock up on cold foods like yogurt or frozen items like meats, sausages, or tamales.
- Bringing cash, especially ones and fives, can make it easier to shop; however, many vendors take credit or debit cards, and some take WIC. Because the prices are often in round numbers, your kids can get some mental math practice by working out the prices and change for you.
- On each trip, be brave and try a new-to-you fruit or vegetable. It will probably take a few tries to get kids to adjust to a new flavor.
- Shop in moderation, but shop regularly—every week, if possible. The freshest produce is the most appealing. Buy what you can use fast, and re-stock the next week.
- Celebrate your market trip with something yummy like a muffin, a cup of juice, or a handful of crunchy nuts.
Finding Local Farmers Markets
The farmers market scene changes every year, as you can see by comparing this post with our 2017 edition. Good tools for researching farmers markets include Edible San Antonio (also on newsstands), GoTexan, FitCitySA, and NowCastSA. Checking social media before you visit can help confirm that a market is still up and running and also alert you about seasonal breaks or cancellations due to severe weather.
To help you choose, we’ve classified local farmers markets into five different types: the Classic, the Mega, the Mini-Gourmet, the Indoor, and the Oasis.
The Classic farmers market specializes in fresh produce. For decades, the San Antonio Farmer’s Market Association has held produce markets on Tuesdays and Saturdays in the Olmos Basin, in an unpaved lot at the corner of Jackson-Keller and McCullough. Their website lists additional locations across the city. More Classic markets: the Legacy Farmers’ Market in the Stone Oak area and the Deerfield Farmer’s Market.
The Mega farmers market has a balance of fresh produce, meats, and prepared foods. The Pearl Farmers Market is the epitome of the Mega market in San Antonio, with live music, demonstrations, and a unique location on the San Antonio River. The market tents are spread around Pearl Park, an open area with artificial turf and a splash pad, adjacent to the food hall in the Bottling Department. The Pearl can provide hours of entertainment, and it’s a good place to take out-of-town guests and multi-generational groups. The New Braunfels Farmers Market is also a well-rounded experience.
A Mini-Gourmet farmers market is smaller, but still has plenty of choices to supply a week’s worth of seasonal fruits and veggies, plus prepared foods like croissants and sausages. In North Central San Antonio, good examples are the Carousel Court Farmers Market, the Boardwalk on Broadway Farmers Market, the Alamo Heights Farmers Market, the Blanco Farmers Market, and the Salado Creek Market at Los Patios. To the northeast, visit the Cibolo Grange Farmers and Artisans Market. To the northwest, see the Huebner Oaks Farmers Market, the monthly MarketPlace at Old Town Helotes, and the Farmers Market at the Cibolo (as mentioned in an earlier post about children in nature). To the south, the Big State Produce Co. Farmers Market is at Port San Antonio.
In addition to fresh produce, Indoor farmers markets are great places to get cold items like meats, dairy, and wine, and dry goods like pasta and loose tea. Truckin’ Tomato offers a local food shopping club with curbside pickup. The Farm Connection is a buyers’ club with locations in San Antonio and Boerne. The Koch Ranches Gourmet Country Store is near the airport and open Monday through Saturday.
The Oasis brings fresh produce to food deserts—areas of town where the selection of fresh foods is limited. The San Antonio Food Bank Farmers’ Market Association has markets at Food Bank headquarters and out in the community at Main Plaza, Palo Alto College, and Mission Marquee Plaza.
Farmers Markets and Healthy Eating for Families
Shopping with your family at farmers markets can be part of an overall lifestyle change for healthier eating and a better way of life. More than just places to buy food, farmers markets are places to learn how to introduce healthy foods to your family. A good example: cooking classes offered by CHEF San Antonio, including demonstrations at the Pearl Farmers Market on Saturdays at 10:00 A.M., 10:30 A.M., 11:00 A.M., 11:30 A.M., and 12:00 P.M. They also offer classes in teaching kitchens located at the Boys & Girls Club of San Antonio/Mays Family Clubhouse, the Najim Family YMCA, and the Mays Family YMCA at Potranco.
At the Children’s Hospital of San Antonio, CHEF offers cooking classes to patients that can be tailored to help manage a specific diagnosis. And at the San Antonio Botanical Garden, the Goldsbury Foundation Pavilion includes a culinary garden and outdoor kitchen that hosts cooking classes and demonstrations.
The San Antonio Food Bank Nutrition, Health, & Wellness programs bring nutrition education into the community. The Food Bank also operates farms at its headquarters and at Mission San Juan, where visitors can learn about historical agricultural practices. The Witte Museum’s H-E-B Body Adventure has a demonstration kitchen that offers classes, camps, and parties.
Besides shopping at farmers markets, there are more ways to enjoy fresh foods with your kids. If you participate in work days at a community garden or urban program like Gardopia Gardens, then you can collect a share of the produce. Nearby towns have pick-your-own farms like Strawberryville Farm at Poteet or Marburger Orchard at Fredericksburg.
Cooking classes for kids are available at the Culinary Institute of America, H-E-B Central Market, Rockhill Cooking Academy, Sur La Table, Williams-Sonoma, and Young Chef’s Academy. The Gastronomy Company offers private cooking lessons; read about Amy’s experience. The annual San Antonio Book Festival includes cookbooks in the lineup and has a cooking tent with chef demonstrations.
Raising our children to love healthy eating is one of the best gifts we can give them. Please share your farmers market tips in the comments below.
- “The Best Dog-Friendly Places in San Antonio,” Amy Johnson, Alamo City Moms Blog, March 20, 2018
- “An Updated Family Guide to Farmer’s Markets in San Antonio,” Inga Cotton, Alamo City Moms Blog, August 10, 2017
- “A Family Guide to Farmer’s Markets in San Antonio,” Inga Cotton, Alamo City Moms Blog, July 29, 2016
- “Navigating the Farmer’s Market with Kids,” Amanda Gentis, Alamo City Moms Blog, August 28, 2014
- “A Field Trip to San Antonio Farmer’s Markets,” Sarah Roberts, Alamo City Moms Blog, September 21, 2013