This summer marks the anniversary of our third year of publishing Edible Austin. Three years doesn’t seem like such a very long time, but it certainly feels like much has changed in our local food world.
Three summers ago, there were farmers markets in Austin just two days of the week (Wednesday and Saturday). Now you can shop for fresh, locally grown food five days a week—and in many more convenient locations around Austin and Central Texas. More restaurants are touting local specials and even all-local menus. And asking what’s local on a menu or where the fish comes from doesn’t raise as many eyebrows as it used to.
With these changes also comes more awareness of the barriers we need to overcome to meet this growing demand for local food in our homes, schools and food establishments. We need new models for distribution, new-farmer training programs, farmland protection and local policies that reflect our eco- and food-conscious values. Some of these issues are being tackled by the new Sustainable Food Policy Board, created just over a year ago to advise our City of Austin and Travis County governments. Other food access and nutritional challenges are being addressed by our growing number of local food nonprofits who have been expanding their reach to include programs like Sustainable Food Center’s Farm-to-Work, Sprouting Healthy Kids and about-to-be-launched Sprouting Healthy Communities initiatives. YouthLaunch’s Urban Roots program has tripled both the number of farm interns as well as acreage farmed and more than doubled their food production in just the past two years.
On the social side of things, Slow Food Austin has teamed up with Texas Organic Farmers and Gardeners Association (TOFGA) to offer farm tours on a regular basis as well as social local-food happy hours with area restaurants and farms. Chef Rene Ortiz’s inspired Sustainable Food Center Chef Series Dinners both raise money and bring like-minded chefs together for fun and culinary magic-making. This collective awareness raising, and making new connections, is perhaps both the biggest opportunity for collaboration and potential change-maker of them all. Edible Austin is proud to be a part of making this happen and keeping you informed.
Finally, in contemplating all that’s happened over the past three years, here’s a shout-out to Edible Austin founding Advisory Group member and Eastside Café co-owner Dorsey Barger, who’s now got herself a farm.