Ben Hasan is the market manager for the Sustainable Food Center, a local nonprofit that operates two area farmers' markets—one in downtown Austin and the other in Sunset Valley.
Even though foot traffic at both markets is down by as much as 70% and pandemic precautions continue to be necessary, Hasan is optimistic.
"Come on down, shop the markets," he said. "We are open, we have been open. We used to say 'rain or shine' and now we've got to add 'global pandemic' but we are here for y'all."
'Better than zero'
Since the onset of COVID-19, the SFC markets have had to make large-scale changes to accommodate customers in a safe way.
Regulations include capping capacity at 150 for the downtown market and 90 for the Sunset Valley market and requiring customers to wash their hands before entering and wearing a face mask while at the market. Vendors are also no longer permitted to offer food samples, must keep hand sanitizer at their station and are encouraged to minimize interactions.
Kris Olsen, owner of Milagro Family Farm, has been doing the downtown SFC market for 12 years and always looks forward to seeing his customers.(Laura Figi)
This is rough for some vendors, like Milagro Farms owner Kris Olsen, who said he misses being able to interact with his regular customers. "Before [COVID-19], I was hugging and kissing my customers," he said. "That's not going on now."
Olsen's sales are down 40% to 50% and he has lost over half of his contracts due to restaurant closures, some of which are permanent. "Before [COVID-19], it was pretty much I could sell eggs, many eggs, to whoever I wanted," he said. "Now I've got to work to make sure I sell them all."
But Olsen has been working at the market for 12 years and said he doesn't plan to stop anytime soon. "It's better than zero," he said. "The demand for eggs is still there so I'm selling my eggs. I'm thankful for that."
'Shifting to change'
SFC is a nonprofit and relies on weekly booth fees from vendors to pay staff and cover market costs. With a decrease in the number of vendors and customers, there is less money to go around.
The organization has also had to expand the monthly budget by thousands of dollars to accommodate COVID-19 precautions.
"There's a huge amount of uncertainty across the board," Hasan said. "There's a lot of shifting we're going to have to do to keep our market model sustainable and, yeah, that's nervous-making, but we've still got customer numbers and vendor numbers that are at a new, stable normal for COVID. In that sense, it's about shifting to change."
Not all farmers and ranchers have seen their sales decrease, however, especially if they offer products that were hard to come by at the beginning of the pandemic.
"At the beginning of the pandemic, we saw across the board our markets were stocked," Hasan said. "We had food at a time in which you could not get things like eggs, bread and produce. We had that here because of the resiliency of local producers."
The boom at the beginning of the pandemic was short-lived for most vendors.
As customers are no longer permitted to eat in the market, prepared food vendors have seen better days.
Tamale Addiction manager Julio Toledano sells tamales both hot and frozen at the market.(Laura Figi)
But Julio Toldano, manager of Tamale Addiction, said he has been able to sell more frozen tamales to make up for the loss of catering opportunities and decrease in sales.
"I think [the farmer's market] is a very secure way to invest your money because if they do not stop in this situation, they will never stop for anything," he said.
Although the market is still adjusting to the new normal, many vendors are just happy to be there.
Cake and Spoon owner Melissa Brinckmann has been working at the market for 11 years. For now, her sales are consistent.
"We've been very fortunate," Brinckmann said. "Our customers have been very supportive and people seem to keep coming back."
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“Especially here in Austin, there's a really, really high interest in electric vehicles and keeping that zero-emissions goal in mind,” said Rachel Reid, a spokesperson for General Motors. "And then just like anywhere in Texas, trucks are something that people use in their daily lives for things from carrying different furniture or anything from a job site or even just having the family in the backseat and being able to carry something along with them.”
Pickups play a major role in Texas culture, so much that the Texas Standard notes auto companies sometimes approach their marketing strategy by the regions of North, East, West and Texas. So, here’s a look at the pickup options in the coming years if you’re looking to go electric.
Production site and release schedule
The Silverado is being made at the company’s first fully dedicated EV assembly plant in Detroit, Michigan. Known as Factory ZERO, it’s named as such to reflect the company’s vision of a world with zero crashes, emissions or congestion.
The Cybertruck, meanwhile, will be produced at Giga Texas. At the recent opening of the factory in southeast Travis County, CEO Elon Musk addressed delays on the truck and said it would be out in 2023.
Orders are closed for the 2022 F-150 Lightning, but 2023 versions are just around the corner. They are being produced at Ford's EV center within their Rouge Complex in Dearborn, Michigan
The Silverado has an estimated MSRP starting at $39,900 with a reservation cost of $100. Depending on which feature options are added, the truck could end up costing around $80,000.
The Cybertruck also requires a reservation cost of $100 and a final price varies by the number of electric motors. So the price ranges from $39,900 for a single motor and $69,900 for a tri motor.
This year’s F-150s ranged in price from $39,974 to $90,874.
You’ll have to be at the wheel and alert no matter which car you choose since no vehicle is fully autonomous.
Chevrolet has compatible roads that drivers can use their driver-assisted technology, known as Super Cruise which includes adaptive cruise control, lane centering and hands-free operation with an attentive driver.
The Cybertruck order site doesn’t appear to have many details on what its tech will include, but Tesla has previously made plans to launch a new self-driving computer with the pickup.
The more expensive Lightning models have Blue Cruise available, which is Ford’s hands-free driving system that can be used on prequalified sections of divided highways. It includes a driver-facing camera to ensure the driver has their eyes on the road and Ford has said there’s potential for future enhancements.
Charging time and range
If you’re looking to take some road trips outside of Austin, then this is one of the critical factors you’ll consider while EV shopping.
The Chevy is estimated to reach 400 miles of range. With a 10 minute charge on a fast charger, it’ll be able to get about 100 miles of range.
It will vary by battery pack, but the Environmental Protection Agency shows the Lightning as capable of traveling between 230 and 320 mile range.
It’s yet to be realized, but Tesla is currently boasting the highest of the three with up to 500 miles of range on its Cybertruck.
Screens and storage
Of course, there are things you can do to keep busy while charging.
Generally, Tesla screens can display navigation, apps and a media player where you can access the radio and streaming services.
When it comes to loading up the vehicle, the Cybertruck flexes enough storage in the back for a motorcycle that you can transport up with a ramp.
The Silverado has a screen above the wheel that functions as a traditional dashboard and another larger screen. Chevy also replaced the space up front where an internal combustion engine would be with a “frunk.”
The Lightning also has a frunk, with Insider listing it as one of the reasons it’s perfect for road trips.
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The Austin airport is warning travelers to “pack your patience” as it expects this Memorial Day weekend to be the busiest in airport history.
This weekend will kick off a period of more than 4.8 million passengers passing through Austin-Bergstrom International Airport by the end of summer—contributing to a projected record-breaking year of 22 million passengers at ABIA.
The surge in traffic at the airport comes as ABIA considers itself officially recovered from the pandemic's impact, an airport spokesperson ABIA Public Information Specialist Bailey Grimmett told Austonia. Additionally, the population growth in Central Texas and more service offered from ABIA has meant more people at the airport, she said. However, it has come under fire for increasingly long wait times at TSA and not having enough parking.
Flying soon? Here’s how to prepare for a busy airport this summer.
Arrive hours early for your flight, especially if it's in the morning
Summer travel lines in September 2021. (Austonia)
The busiest passenger traffic days in summer 2021 were Thursdays, Fridays, Sundays and Mondays, according to a release but each day of the week is expected to see increased traffic this summer. Lines tend to be longest before 8 a.m. and sometimes mid-morning hours.
Grimmett told Austonia the average person should arrive at the airport two-and-a-half hours before boarding time for domestic flights or three hours early for international flights. You might want to tack on extra time if…
- You need to park or are returning a rental.
- You’re traveling with a big group, children or those who require assistance.
- You’re checking in baggage.
Familiarize yourself with TSA requirements
The worst thing while traveling is getting stuck in security and having to repack all of your belongings. If you’re traveling with a carry-on of toiletries, medication or food, double-check with TSA.gov if you’re not sure.Security screening checkpoints open at 3 a.m. and Grimmett said don’t hesitate to ask a staff member if you need help. Faster screening is available by applying for TSA PreCheck or Clear screening for an extra fee.
Rather wait for the rush to die down?
Grimmett said to expect near-constant high traffic through August, when students return to school and tourist season ends. The lull is short-lived though—ABIA typically sees another travel uptick in October for events like F1 and ACL Festival.
Once you’re inside, refer to our complete guide to ABIA for a look at the amenities.