Local farms and markets help make a more organic Thanksgiving


Fanny Trang

The Richardsons grow more than 300 varieties of vegetables year round and sell them in different farmers’ markets. Johnson’s Backyard Garden’s products will be available at the Triangle Market today from 3 p.m. to 7 p.m.

Kelly Eisenbarger

This Thanksgiving, think about staying local ­— locally-grown, that is. Every part of your Thanksgiving dinner, whether it’s the traditional turkey or the brown sugar sprinkled on top of your sweet potatoes, can be easily obtained from local sources. A locally grown and purchased Thanksgiving dinner is easily obtainable through Austin’s many farmers markets and organic farms.

Five different farmers markets serve Austin. In any given week, the Sustainable Food Center ­— an organization devoted to building a local food community and helping individuals make healthy decisions — puts on farmers markets in Sunset Valley, at Fourth and Guadalupe streets and at the Triangle. Holiday or not, there are plenty of fresh, organic ingredients found at these markets to make this Thursday delicious.

Richardson Farm will sell turkeys as well as grass-fed beef, pastured pork and eggs at the Triangle Farmers Market on Wednesday. The farm is about 60 miles east of Austin in Rockdale and has been in the Richardson family for generations.

Kay Richardson, one of the owners of Richardson Farm, warns that turkeys are selling out quickly and the farm only has a few Texas-grown turkeys left. Many people reserve their Thanksgiving birds in early October.

“We raise these turkeys from babies. We get day-old baby chicks in and raise them free-range without hormones or antibiotics. We have two types of birds: the broad-breasted, which is the regular grocery market variety, and a heritage breed bird. This breed is harder to get as babies, harder to raise, pricier but much tastier,” Richardson said.

Elizabeth Kohout, an employee of Dai Due ­— a farmers market stall, butcher shop, supper club and provider of cooking classes — relayed the importance of setting your table with more local food than just a turkey.

“We have created and packaged a turkey brine kit designed to flavor your bird with local herbs and spices. There’s rosemary and thyme from our garden, juniper from the Hill Country and lemons from the Rio Grande Valley as well as other fragrant ingredients,” Kohout said. She advised placing the turkey in cold water with the brine mixture so that the muscles and tendons begin to break down and create a tender bird.

Dai Due also advised porchetta as an excellent substitute for those not fond of turkey.

“Porchetta is a roast where pork belly is wrapped around a pork loin. There’s candied shallot, rosemary, fennel in our marinade and by roasting this low and slow the flavors mingle really well. It makes for great leftovers, too,” Kahout said.

To complement a locally bought turkey, brine and even porchetta, the biggest organic farm in the South, Johnson’s Backyard Garden, offers many fresh vegetables.
Located in Austin just north of the airport are 70 acres of certified organic vegetables. Seemingly endless rows of every shade of green flank the farm’s gate.

Rod O’Connor, a market worker for Johnson’s Backyard Garden, is excited to prepare his Thanksgiving dinner with veggies from the garden.

“I will definitely be making sweet potato pie this year. Pumpkins are hard to grow in Texas, so the sweet potato has taken over as a favorite,” O’Connor said. “Mashed turnips will also be on my table as a surprisingly delicious alternative or addition to potatoes.”
At the farmers’ markets O’Connor said that sales of the farm’s butternut squash and sweet potatoes spike before the holiday.

The Triangle Market, which is open from 3 p.m. to 7 p.m. Wednesday, offers all of the makings for a delicious, fresh and thoroughly local Thanksgiving.