Waco Downtown Farmers Market showcases contrasts, comparisons between cultures

The Waco Downtown Farmers Market opens every Saturday, showcasing local businesses and products. Audrey La | Photographer

By Sarah Wang | Reporter

The Waco Downtown Farmers Market has quite a history. It was originally launched in 2011 among the live oaks along the Brazos River. The farmers market then relocated to its current location in 2017 due to riverside construction, and has operated at the courthouse parking lot since.

That was where we first met: a foreigner getting in touch with a seemingly foreign culture — to be more specific, with Texan culture. Before my arrival to the United States, I had little information about what Texas was like.

I imagined it to be intolerably hot, with some days getting to the point where your plastic slippers could melt on asphalt. But it turned out that it would snow in Texas sometimes in the winter — snowstorms that would trap you in your house, breaking water pipes and stopping electricity.

Putting the stereotypes aside, I explored the real Texas on that day. Texan farmers, unlike the farmers over the rest of the U.S. who produce May through October, are able to produce fresh outputs throughout the whole year. Moreover, Waco Downtown Farmers Market has strict requirements, as only agricultural producers and artisan vendors within 150 miles of Waco are deemed local.

The state of Texas is one of the leading exporters of agricultural commodities according to the Texas Department of Agriculture. Seeing the green leaves and the fresh roots which were just pulled out from the field makes me remember my hometown: Henan.

Henan is a landlocked province located in the north of the central plain in China. It is a state largely known by its dense population and agricultural outputs. Moreover, the province’s primary economy is agricultural; it ranked at the top in output among the Chinese provinces.

Just like Texas, Henan’s output takes a large percentage of China’s overall agricultural output, and the farmers are able to produce year round. In addition, farmers markets are very common in the province, thus seeing the fresh vegetables, meats and dairy products kind of drew me in.

Yet there is something different. While the farmers market in my hometown aims solely to provide raw materials to the consumers — in other words, it’s a business — Waco Downtown Farmers Market is more like a lifestyle.

People come to the market not only to buy what they need, but more importantly to enjoy their weekend. They came to the market with their family and their lovely furry pets. Oftentimes they would stop by the food trucks and get Mexican, Chinese and American cuisines, then they would go see the musicians for their performances. All of these items add to a festival environment in which people slow their pace of life and enjoy their weekend from a week of busy work.

There are some things that are similar, but more things are totally opposite. The veggies in this setting carry with them a sense of liveliness, which the products in supermarkets cannot provide: the warm, real locality beyond the icy assembly line has the ability to bring you in.