Viewpoint: Downtown Farmer’s Market brings much-needed cultural diversity

By Caroline Brewton

I’m going to be honest with you: I’m not a morning person.

Whenever I wake up before 10 a.m. or so, I’m groggy, incoherent and generally unhappy to be awake. This semester, the need to fulfill my degree requirements has forced me to enroll in an 8 a.m. class every day of the week. It’s a language class, too, which means I have to be on my toes — I’m not naturally gifted where language is concerned and need to study hard, participate and pay attention in order to do well.

Imagine my displeasure.

You’d think I’d maximize my sleep time on weekends by sleeping until noon on Saturday ­— and once upon a time, I did. But thanks to the Downtown Farmer’s Market, I don’t do that anymore. I find myself eager to wake up early and get there before the crowd hits, before all the good stuff is gone.

The market is located at located at 400 South University Parks Drive. The prices are good and the market offers variety I can’t often find without going out of my way. In addition to the fresh produce, meat, soaps and other crafts, several booths offer food that can be taken home or eaten at the Market.

It’s a veritable League of Nations of food: Crepes from Co-Town Crepes that recall European fare, delicious Vietnamese dishes from Saigon, frozen but handmade Indian food from Lamba’s, and even Mexican food — Sergio’s Cafe offers delicious breakfast burritos and salsa. There are others, of course: a waffle stand with lots of unique toppings, including eggs and sausage, sometimes barbeque, some excellent coffee vendors and even a booth that sells brick-oven pizza. Some of these booths have appeared fairly recently — a sign that the Farmer’s Market is doing enough business to grow.

I hope the Waco community continues to support this effort. It brings a diversity in cuisine that I had found wanting in the community before.

When I first came to Waco my freshman year, I was disappointed at the lack of diversity the restaurants in Waco offered. That’s not to say there weren’t any good restaurants here that offered international foods. There were — and are.

There is lots of good food in Waco if you know where to look.

However, compared to Houston or Austin, the choices are much more limited. I couldn’t find Indian food anywhere, and while one restaurant with a certain cultural cusine might be offered, the city must be too small to support many. It’s understandable, but unfortunate for those who like to eat adventurously.

The Waco Farmer’s Market, though, brings me that big-city feel: I get lots of choices all in one place, and exposure to some foods that maybe I haven’t tried before.

To me, food is a gateway: It teaches you about culture. I consider trying new food an essential (and delicious) part of cultural education.

For one thing, usually, the food is made by those with an understanding of the culture, so trying the food may help you meet people of different backgrounds. For example, I ordered Pho at Saigon – and asked about the pronunciation of the dish, which actually sounds more like “fa.” I got food and a new understanding.

It’s well worth the price of a trip.

Even though I have to wake up early, I’ve grown to love going to the Farmer’s Market.

A short drive downtown at the uncivil hour of 9 a.m. is still much better than driving to Austin. And the Farmer’s Market is only open on Saturday, so there is no roadblock to sleeping in on Sunday — a perfect, perfect arrangement.

I applaud the venders, organizers and customers who contribute to this effort and keep the farmer’s market going, which, in my opinion, represents a healthy community with an interest in diversity and in buying local products from local vendors.

Keep thinking globally and buying locally, Waco.

Caroline Brewton is a junior journalism major from Beaumont. She is the editor-in-chief of the Lariat.