Story and photograph by Pamela Price
This story originally appeared in the Leon Springs Community News, July 2010 edition.
When it comes to open-air markets featuring fresh fruits and vegetables, it’s the large, urban Pearl Farmer’s Market that gets most press coverage locally. As it happens, the more intimate Leon Springs Farmer’s Market is slightly older and has its own dedicated fan base. Plus, seeing as it’s situated between Leon Creek and the emerald-green hills from which the community’s namesake spring gurgles forth, the market’s air is fresher, too.
Admittedly, this reporter is partial to our community’s Saturday morning market, having been a customer since it’s inception. In interest of full disclosure, I’ve helped prepare the market’s newsletter and pitched in with special projects over the last two years, too.
It doesn’t take an insider to appreciate the market’s unusual history, however. Founded in August 2007, the market came to be when then-city council candidate Mario Obledo promised Leon Springs voters that he’d create a market for them even if he didn’t win election.
Yes, Obledo lost his bid for the District 8 seat, but Leon Springs landed a market manager.
“I did some research on markets, called around and approached vendors,” said Obledo. “At first the market was on Thursday afternoons… then due to popular demand I changed the day to Saturday mornings. Residents at first would pass by… then stop and say they were glad to see a market in Leon Springs.”
In September 2008, the market moved down Boerne Stage Road to its current location in the Leon Springs Baptist Church parking lot.
“It was outgrowing its location in the Leon Springs Dance Hall lot. Many folks [would bring] their families and kids,” said Obledo. “Many cars were driving in and out of the lot. We needed more open space for growth.”
For shoppers unfamiliar with farmers’ markets, there can be a learning curve. After all, if you visit a month a market to get fresh fruits and vegetables, then your weekly menus are bound by what’s available on Saturday morning more than a standard supermarket checklist. Regulars have learned to improvise. They’ve also learned the value of becoming acquainted with their favorite vendors for an insider’s peek at what will be in stock soon.
Most weeks one can count on the market’s ever-changing, seasonal assortment of fresh fruits and vegetables as well as access to farm-fresh eggs, canned items, handmade breads and cookies, pecans, and grass-fed beef. In recent months, a seafood vendor has been on hand, too. Prefer to grow your own food? Interested in fresh flowers or succulent plants? The market offers those options most of the year, too.
“Our plants are grown locally, and you get to meet the person who grew them at the market. That’s just a huge advantage for shoppers, because the experience is more personable,” said Rosslyn St. Clair of Flor Hermosa Nursery near Fair Oaks. “At Home Depot or Wal-Mart, who knows who grew those plants? Where’d they come from? For my customers, I will answer their growing questions [after purchase]. I think that in this day and age, when everything is so impersonal, it’s nice to be able to talk to someone who produces something. There’s just an important connection made there.”
In addition to providing vendors and customers a place to conduct trade and conversation, connections formed at the market led to the creation of last year’s Green Fest, an eco-centered event featuring local “green” businesses and services. Obledo said the market and festival “are married in terms of growing and going green… Both are also geared towards providing individuals and families with memories that can be cherished.”
Other market community-outreach projects include a new series of seasonal, family-friendly programs featuring groups such as Dinner Garden, San Antonio Food Bank and Dig for Texas.
“The market provides an open-air gathering place family, friends, neighbors and strangers to meet up and shop for fresh, healthy food options,” said Obledo. “People can meet with old friends and make new friends.”
To attract new customers, Obledo oversees a marketing effort that includes the aforementioned newsletter, signs along Boerne Stage, and Twitter and Facebook pages. The take-away from the social media outreach? Obledo hopes that folks come to realize that they “don’t have to drive in the core of the city to find a market “ adding that the trip to Leon Springs “is full of scenic views, nature and wildlife. Plus, live music and sustainable lifestyle information can be found alongside old-fashioned customer service and a smile.”
The Leon Springs Farmers Market is open Saturday mornings, from 8:30 AM to Noon, in the Leon Springs Baptist Church lot (24133 Boerne Stage Road). On August 7, the market will observe it’s third anniversary with a short program and children’s activities. Also scheduled to be on hand are local historians and members of the Old Spanish Trail Centennial group to educate customers on Leon Springs’s past. For more details as the anniversary approaches, please visit the market, its website (www.leonspringsfm.com), and Facebook page (www.facebook.com/leonspringsfm).