A few weeks ago in this space, some of you may have read the question sent in by Produce Curious, a reader who’s somewhat new to town and wanted to know where he could hook up with some farm-fresh produce in San Antonio.
I had to confess that I live thousands of miles away in Missoula, Montana, and I’ve never even been to Texas, much less SA. I figured I was done for, that I’d be hunted down by a bunch of chainsaw-waving, Alamo-remembering, oil-drilling cactus humpers.
Instead, I received a big Texas welcome. And even better, I got a front-row seat to this community in action. I got more email from Say-Towners who want to help Produce Curious find a farmer’s market than Viagra-Cialis spam.
Dear Chef Boy Ari,
I read your column every issue in the San Antonio Current, and I appreciate your efforts. My name is Robert Maggian and
I am the marketing chief for the Texas Department of Agriculture for the San Antonio region. We are the agency that certifies farmers markets so they can redeem WIC coupons during the spring and summer seasons. I am attaching a list of San Antonio farmers markets for this year, to help answer the request you made in the next to the last paragraph of your most recent column. I would be glad to help you answer any questions about the availability of Texas food items, horticulture items or any other
ag-based type of products.
For those of you who don’t know, WIC stands for “Women, Infants, & Children,” a program that gives food coupons to low-income women with small children. These coupons can be redeemed for food in stores and more recently farmers markets, where women can get real nutrition for themselves and their babies when they really need it. I understand as well that it can be a pain in the ass to keep track of all those coupons and reimburse the farmers, so put your hands together for Robert! If anyone wants the list Robert attached me, just send me an email. Also, if anyone wants to talk/email with Robert, he gave me permission to share his contact info.
Dear Chef Boy Ari,
San Antonio has a CSA called Rancho de la Chuparrosa (Goodfoodfarm.com). The produce is all-organic (although not certified). Rancho de la Chuparrosa also holds a farmers market for the public every Saturday, from 10 a.m.-1 p.m. behind Artisan’s Alley on Bitters Rd. There are other local vendors there as well, and you can get veggies, chicken, beef, eggs, and more for sale — including out-of-this-world homemade goat cheese. The other farmers markets that rotate daily throughout San Antonio (like you can find at Picktexas.com) can be very good, too. But they are not all organic.
I can’t say enough about Community Supported Agriculture. It’s a great way of putting farms back where they belong: at the center of a vital and well-fed community. Some CSAs have sliding scales based on income, and others will allow you to do work-trade on the farm as partial or full substitute for cash dues. Is it me, or does Chuparrosa mean something like “To suck a rose” in Spanish? Is that what you Texans are calling it these days?
Having never been to the farm, I checked out their website. It definitely looks like a fun, friendly, hip, and groovy place — so all-of-the-above, in fact, that it’s no surprise to learn the Current already gave it some love `See “Fields of green,” Flavor, Spring 2007`.
Meanwhile, is anyone out there wondering about this “all-organic but not certified” business? By definition, “organic” means that the farming operation is third-party certified to adhere to USDA’s definition of organic, which means things like no non-approved chemicals allowed, and a soil-building program.
There’s a lot of this “all-organic but not certified” business going around. The popularity of chemical-free and sustainable agriculture is growing, as is the number of growers who are disillusioned with the USDA Organic Certification program. It’s getting too big, too corporate, and too much like the original paradigm to which organic was supposed to be an alternative. There’s a group of farmers in Montana who collectively ditched the organic label and came up with their own label: “Homegrown.” When the group that uses the marketing label takes it upon itself to certify its own members, it’s called a “Participatory Guarantee System.”
In other news, a few weeks ago (after the Current ran my story on lame-duck politicians and Thai-style duck curry), I got an email from a Say-Towner asking my favorite SA place to get curry duck. I was still in the closet at the time, and couldn’t even bring myself to respond.
In my “Coming out” piece a few weeks ago, I mentioned that there’s a guy walking around SA wondering where he can get a bowl of duck curry — and perhaps wondering why I didn’t write him back. It was a plea to you, the good community of San Antonio.
You didn’t let us down:
Dear Chef Boy Ari,
A great Thai restaurant with roasted duck curry on the menu is Thai Wuang Ping, 3825 Fredericksburg Road; open
11 a.m.-3 p.m. and 5-9:30 p.m. Monday-Friday, and Saturday noon-9:30 p.m..
Everything I’ve eaten here has been very good to great. (I have no financial interest in this restaurant.)
Thanks Qwack Head, Chuparrossette, Robert Maggian, and Produce Curious. San Antonio rules!
Stumped in the kitchen or café? Ask Chef Boy Ari at email@example.com
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