History of the Brazos Valley Farmers' Market
by Patrick Gendron

After 17 years in the same location, the May 30, 2015, market will be the last in the Brazos County Health Department parking lot. Patrick Gendron, who served as market president many years, has kindly provided this retrospective. The new location will be north of Downtown Bryan between Main and Bryan Street, bordered on the North and south, respectively by 21st and 22 St.

by Patrick Gendron
In the early 1980’s, the Brazos Valley Farmers Market (under the coordination of County Agent Sistrunk) was located in the parking lot of the Brazos County Courthouse where the current Courthouse parking garage is located. In the mid to late 1980s the farmers market moved out to the parking lot of the County Extension Office on Highway 21 where it remained until the mid-90s. County Agent Dr. Jim Mazurkiewicz and later County Agent Jack Hunter acted as coordinators of the farmers market.

Around 1995 or so, for a few years the Bryan/College Station Realtors Association took over the leadership of the farmers market and moved it to the old Perry Brothers parking lot in Downtown Bryan at the northwest corner of William J. Bryan and Bryan Street where the current Discount Floors Superstore sits. For a year or two the farmers market went back to the parking lot of the County Extension Office on Highway 21.

In 1998, Patrick Gendron, Mark Burow, Josie Milberger, and Pete Lawson took over the leadership of the farmers market from the realtors. In 1999, it was decided to move the farmers market to its current location of 201 N. Texas Avenue at the corner of Texas Avenue and William J. Bryan Parkway (the parking lot of the Brazos County Health Department, which was once a Safeway Grocery Store) because it was a highly visible location and traffic count research showed it was one of the most traveled intersections in all of Brazos County.

Back then—as real estate agents would say—the most important aspect of advertising is really location, location, location. The main goal of the farmers market has always been to provide an avenue for farmers and gardeners to sell the fruits of their labor to fellow members of the community who have an appreciation for locally grown, fresh produce


The Texas farm-to-market road

Although more a few Texas farm-to-market roads were transformed by population sprawl to urban beltways, such as the FM 1960 loop around Houston and FM 1604 loop around San Antonio, most FMs maintain their original country character. Farm-to-market and ranch-to-market roads account for more than 50 percent of Texas Highway System.

In 1937, the first farm-to-market road is completed between Mount Enterprise and Shiloh in Rusk County, in the East Texas pineywoods, a distance of 5.8 miles, but the beneficiary was the Temple Lumber Company sawmill. Soon after, though, urban area lobbyists pushed for gasoline taxes to be directed toward urban arterial routes. Prevailing over the urbanites was perceived need by Texans and their legislature to connect the isolated central and western part of the state. In 1949, the legislature amended Colson-Briscoe to earmark and additional $15 million of the state's annual General Revenue funding for farm-to-market and ranch roads to be matched with federal funds.

Ironically, when population growth turned farm-to-market and ranch-to-market roads into urban arterials, residents rejected as “un-Texas” the idea of renaming these roads Urban Roads. A few were renamed, and although they benefit from state maintenance, they do not receive federal funds for expansion.

In “Texas Primer: The Farm-to-Market Road” (Texas Highways, 1983), Paul Burka writes:” [The farm-to-market road ]is different from other highways: narrower, more winding, more attuned to the contours of the earth. You can’t drive as fast, and you don’t want to, because on a farm-to-market road, the feeling is of driving on the land, instead of past it.” Burka goes to say, “The farm-to-market road is to Texas what the freeway is to California: not just a highway, but a symbol of the culture.” <\


12-year study finds 'staggering' effect of vegetables on longevity and disease preventon

The Washington Post, April 1, 2014 (quoting verbatim): “People who eat seven or more [half cup] portions of fresh fruits and vegetables each day may reduce their risk of dying from a wide variety of diseases by as much as 42 percent over people who consume less than one portion, according to a new study by British researchers who tracked the eating habits of more than 65,000 people for 12 years.” The study was published in the Journal of Epidemiology and Public Health. Researchers at University College London tracked the diets of more than 65,000 people for 12 years, according to the study.

The Washington Post reports. that “consuming the same amount dropped the specific risk of dying from cancer by 25 percent, and from heart disease by 31 percent. ‘The size of the effect is staggering,’ says researcher Oyinoloa Oyebode. Even minimal consumption had a measurable impact: eating one to three daily portions cut the risk of death by 14 percent. Fresh vegetables provided the biggest benefit, with each portion reducing overall risk of death by 16 percent. Consuming canned fruits, however, actually increased the statistical risk, likely due to the added sugar used in processing. Fruit juices had no effect at all. Researchers stressed that the findings indicate a ‘strong association but not necessarily a causal relationship’ between eating fruits and vegetables and mortality rates.’”


Review of the documentary Forks over Knives

Let food be thy medicine. Hippocrates

The doctor of the future will no longer treat the human frame with drug, but rather will cure and prevent disease with nutrition. Thomas Edison

Everyone is familiar with the litany of diet-related health issue in the United States: cancer, type II diabetes, heart disease, stroke, hypertension (even in children), arteriosclerosis, autoimmune disease. More than 40% of adults and even, alarmingly, 20% of American four-years-olds, are considered obese. Heart disease and cancer together kill more than 1 million Americans per year. One of three will develop diabetes during their lifetimes. We mask fatigue with caffeine, sugar, and energy drinks.

The premise of Forks over Knives is that by eliminating or greatly reduce refined, processed, or animal foods by eating a whole foods, plant-based diet, we can prevent, or in some cases, reverse, several of our worst diseases. Note, “knives,” in this case, refers to scalpels, as in heart bypass and cancer surgeries.

Former Surgeon General Richard Carmona, “This could be the first generation of American children which [live shorter lives] than their parents.” Clearly the Western diet is taking its toll.”

“Yet we, as a nation, spent $2.2 trillion on health care, more five times more than the defense budget, spending more on health care than any industrialized country.”

Two eminent scientists, Drs. Caldwell Esselstyn  a medical doctor formerly of the breast cancer project at the Cleveland Clinic, and Dr. T. Colin Campbell, a biochemist at the forefront of nutrition research, independently arrived at the same conclusions—
  • Our diet, not solely our genes, can determine our health and medical fate
  • A diet with a large percentage of protein can turn on cancer cells.
Dr. Campbell's legacy is the China-Oxford-Cornell project, a 20-year comprehensive nutrition study of China. One of the outcomes of this study is an exhaustive atlas of autopsy-proven cancer case incidence in every Chinese province.

The case studies in the documentary present a compelling argument. One engaging middle-aged man had been taking 12 prescription medications daily, including two injections. A whole-foods, plant-based diet reversed his type II diabetes, dangerously high cholesterol, and hypertension with exercise and diet under the direction of two progressive medical doctors.

Particularly enlightening were the comments of Dr. Doug Lisle, a psychologist and author of The Pleasure Trap, about the addictiveness of high-fat, highly salted food, and the physiological basis for the feeling of satiation. Other case studies are of a woman who reversed a breast cancer diagnosis; another, given a few months to live, who is now thriving; a single mother of five who related her endocrinologist’s shock about her achieved goal of reversing diabetes and getting off insulin.

In fact, in an early study, Dr. Esselstyn was given 24 patients seriously ill with coronary artery disease. Fifteen years later 17 of the patients are alive and thriving. More information, recipes, testimonials can be found on the Forks over Knives website

(Note: for purposes of this review, “Americans” refers to persons living in the United States.) -Jan Gerston


Market to Menu 2014: Breakfast with the Farmers

Market to Menu 2014: connecting consumers directly to local food!

Learn how to transform fresh locally grown vegetables, fruit, and eggs into a meal your whole family will enjoy, Saturday, June 21.

Brazos Valley Farmers' Market is partnering with Village Downtown for the fourth annual Market to Menu event. GoTexan will be on board with recipe cards, shopping bags, and nutritional information. Come to see chefs from Village Downtown demonstrate preparation of vegetables and eggs, with omelet and scramble samples between 9:30 and 11:30 a.m.
Some images from last year's Market to Menu:

peppers and onions
Peppers and onions awaiting the saute pan

GoTexan table
Event is sponsored by GoTexan, Texas Department of Agriculture

Sarah from Village Downtown cooking
Chef Jayne from Village Downtown prepares omelets

2 Brothers Salsa

refreshment booth
Refreshment station
GoTexan booth
GoTexan booth with basil plants


Okra: the versatile crop

by Jan Gerston

A member of the mallow family, okra, inspires a perhaps muted allegiance from vegetable lovers, and usually general disdain from vegetable nonlovers. Jokingly, it has been said:okra: a vegetable so slimy you don’t notice how hairy it is. Okra however, redeems itself in its potential for an astonishing array of uses beyond soups and stews: from its seeds can be extracted to an oil comparable to olive oil or be processed into a protein source, and the stems and leaves could be animal feed.

But its uses don’t stop with edible products: the mucilage offers benefits of laxatives (owing to the soluble fat, and ranking with psyllium and flaxseed); the gums and pectin can lower serum cholesterol, and can be used as a substitute for aloe vera. Like its relative, kenaf, fibers from okra can be fashioned into high-quality paper. Indeed, the Lost Crops of Africa: Volume II: Vegetables leads off its surprisingly entertaining chapter  on okra on a 1974 survey of least-liked vegetables.

In African dialects, the word for okra sounds similar to gumbo, and indeed, it is regarded with reference in New Orleans, where it forms the basis of signature dishes, such as…gumbo.

Published by the National Academies Press, Lost Crops of Africa: Volume II: Vegetables, offers a transcendent literary homage to okra. The sheer delightfulness of the language in this scientific volume will bring a smile to even the most mucilage-averse persons. For instance—

“In reality okra could have a future that will make people puzzle over why earlier generations failed to seize the opportunity before their eyes. In the Botanical Kingdom it may actually be a Cinderella, though still living on the hearth of neglect amid the ashes of scorn.” (National Research Council (2006-10-27).

And later—

“In America, where it appears almost exclusively in stews and soups, okra is usually seen in cross section, cut into disks that look like little cartwheels with a seed nestled between each pair of spokes. Okra is also the key ingredient in gumbo, the famous dish of the American South.”

A study in robustness, okra grows easily in tropical, subtropical, and temperate climates, but can adapt to dry climates also.

Brazos Valley Farmers' Market, April 19, 2014

Just a few of the wonderful, flavorful, vitamin- and antioxidant-packed producevarieties available this time of year from Brazos Valley Farmers' Market.
Array of colorful peppers, including jalapeƱos from Millican Farms.

Elephant garlic from David's Dog Run Farm: try grilling this mild garlic.
Tomatoes from Millican Farms: these colorful beauties are a sure way to get your kids interested in vegetables.