By Andrea Mau
Web Content Contributor
Kevin Adams is a local farmer in San Marcos, and has been growing organic vegetables for the past 15 years. Adams also runs the farmers market since it first opened off the side of Tantra Coffeehouse, and has since moved downtown onto San Antonio Street for 10 years now.
The farmers market occurs every Saturday from 9 a.m. to 1 p.m. on the Square. Many goods are sold in stalls including locally made coffee, jams, bread, plants and vegetables. The market even includes some clothing, jewelry and candle stalls.
In February, I was able to meet with Adams and talk about his experiences with organic farming and the farmers market.
Andrea Mau: Tell me a little about the purpose of the farmers market.
Kevin Adams: Downtown really used to feel a bit like an abandoned set of an old western movie, especially on weekends. You could just come in and lay down in the middle of San Antonio [Street] and not worry about getting hit by a car. So we wanted to see what we could do, not worrying about attracting tourists or students, but really just to create a space for everybody to be able to come downtown and hang out publicly. Right now there’s not a whole lot going on, but I say about noon even the courthouse lawn will be turned into an impromptu park with kids running around and people hanging out hearing music.
AM: How do you grow good vegetables?
KA: Compost and attention to detail. They say the farmer’s footsteps are the best fertilizer. You really just have to have a rich compost. That’s the secret to gardening. That, and experience and timing.
AM: What influenced you to get into agriculture?
KA: I think I kind of backed into it. I didn’t come from a farm. I was at UT [University of Texas at Austin] in 1992, and I dropped out of UT and went to work on an organic vegetable farm. At the time I was more of an aspiring writer, and I liked the hours. I could work five hours a day as a farm hand and still have plenty of time to write and read. It turns out almost all of the farm hands that I worked with over those years were in very similar situations. They were all musicians or writers who for some reason found that in the actual pretty strenuous work, maybe being a farm hand balanced their creative lives.
So there was that aspect of it practically, and then ethically and philosophically I was interested in sustainability, local culture and agriculture. Y’know, sustainability wasn’t quite a top of the brain word back then. There were not a lot of people talking about it or thinking about it. Most of them [farm hands] were in the radical environmental community, which I was as well. I was an Earth First!-er. I don’t know if you know what that is, but I was an old school radical environmentalist.
Instead of focusing on saying what we’re doing wrong as a society, you have to say what is a proper relationship with a place and a landscape. Of course agriculture is going to be a destructive force if it is industrial and thousands of miles away. It can’t help but be destructive in that capacity. What we need is to localize that, and find practices for our specific landscapes that allow us to live elegantly within the place that we inhabit.
AM: How did the farmers market come about?
KA: The Tuesday market has existed since the early eighties, so there had always been a little weekday market here. We wanted to have a farmer’s market that supported local, small-scale agriculture, specifically from the San Marcos area. We wanted to reflect the community, and to nourish and support agriculture within the community.
AM: What was the biggest obstacle in starting up the farmers market?
KA: The biggest obstacle was we didn’t have any local farmers. It kind of helped call a lot of them into being, so now instead of having one local farmer we have about 12 local farmers. You have River Bottom Farms, Thigh High Gardens and Little Bluestem Farm. Now we have a new generation of people participating on the ground level for sustainable agriculture.
AM: I heard you’ve had a hand in helping out some of the local farms start-up, is that true? And what did you do to help?
KA: I don’t really think of it that way. I just think it was a natural thing that happened. A lot of those farmers were gardners. We all gardened together at the community garden behind Saint John’s Caltholic Church, which sadly no longer exists. The church does, but not the community garden. So that was just a neat thing that happened historically. I think it was the right place at the right time. They don’t need acres and acres and acres, y’know? Once it’s visible that it can be done and there’s an example, then people who are interested in it realize that actually is a legitimate possibility. Not to get rich, but to make a modest living.
AM: What was one of the hardest challenges starting up?
KA: It just seems like in some ways it’s been fairly easy. When we came downtown the first time, I think that maybe the city felt we were just gonna be doing it one Saturday. Then I just kinda kept coming and closing the street. So there’s always been this feeling I have, like this little kid feeling of are they really letting us do this? And it turns out they are. It’s an institution now; we’re in the tourist guide.
It’s kinda weird how that happened, but that’s been the biggest thing is just having to have that consistency; to come out and clean the road as best as I can, especially after a Friday night on the Square. Cleaning the street at 7:30 the next morning is fascinating. There’s a little bit of insight into how fun of a night it was on the Square. It’s amazing what you can find. But just doing that 52 weeks a year, rain or shine, just to create this space. It was definitely a, “you build it and they will come” kind of thing.
AM: What’s your favorite thing about the farmers market?
KA: There’s all these people I’ve met here, it’s pretty neat. You will see more people hanging out and playing, walking dogs, throwing frisbees, kids doing sidewalk art — you’ll see more of that on a typical Saturday morning than existed in 50 years cumulative before that. It was just a dead air space. When I have produce, some of the vendors will be like “it’s not fair, you always sell out because all your friends come and shop with you,” and I say “not really, I actually met all those people here.”
AM: Why should you buy local?
KA: Well, you don’t need yet another person answering that question. I think everybody knows why they should be supporting locally. Either you’re supporting local culture or you’re supporting local people. Anytime, whether you’re a student or whether you are a retiree, you have to ask yourself: how do you make your town the kind of town you would want to live in?
AM: How is the farming community in San Marcos?
KA: Good! They’re diverse and an amazing group of people. They’re all creative, bright, and by definition super dedicated at what they do. I mean, nobody gets into agriculture to be rich. Nobody gets into agriculture to get famous. Nobody gets into agriculture because that’s where all the chicks are. There’s no reason to do it other than a dedication to the craft, to the culture and to the ecological integrity of a landscape, including the people of the place.
AM: What’s the biggest obstacle for farmers today?
KA: Getting started. That’s the hardest thing for everybody. That’s the hardest thing about everyday, is just putting your boots on. The hardest thing though has nothing to do with all the stuff normal people think, because you go into agriculture already knowing the fact that you’re gonna be up against the seasons and weather. You’re up against a million variables and you’re only gonna be one of them. That’s just reality.
AM: What’s the worst thing about San Marcos?
KA: Investor money. That’s it.
AM: What’s the best thing about San Marcos?
KA: Everything else.
Featured image by Andrea Mau.