The Story of the Market: Andi Scull Cheatham

Market Family and Friends:

Gather ’round, it’s story time! Now that we’re settled in at Plaza Saltillo, it’s time to commemorate the big move and share the collective memories of Market organizers (and maybe some vendors) past and present. This month, we’re featuring a series of blog posts to share the history of the HOPE Farmers Market: who we are and why we’re involved, how the Market started and how it’s grown… plus give a little sneak peek into what’s coming up!

As many of you know, this is just a small taste of the endless stories there are to tell. Have a Market memory of your own to share? Send it to us, and we’ll share the best ones!

See you around the Market,

Lizzie Garrett
HOPEFM Development Director


The first in this series is written by Andi Scull Cheatham, founder of the HOPE Campaign. 

The Beginning: Andi’s story…

In 2006, I first met with Shepard Fairey in LA to discuss an idea called the HOPE (Helping Other People Everywhere) Campaign. This concept would involve artists and musicians to help raise awareness about the genocide in Darfur, Sudan. I could never have guessed that this meeting was the beginning of so much more ahead.

Three years later, I was in Austin for a HOPE/SXSW event and stopped by to see my long time friend Reji Thomas – just in time for Fader Fort in full swing at Pine Street Station. After the dust settled, Reji asked me for ideas about what to do with the space. In the past Reji and I had hosted art shows and events to support the artist community, but this time we were looking for something better, stronger, meaningful!

On the same trip, I also met with East Austin veteran and owner of Big Red Sun, Selena Souders. The first thing Selena said when she walked into the back of Reji’s old cotton rail warehouse was “farmers market!” I loved the idea and so did Reji, who shared that she had always wanted an art market or open air studio. This was exactly the type of meaningful project that we wanted HOPE to bring to the Austin community.

Farmers markets were a part of the fabric of my childhood and continued to be a weekly outlet for me as an artist and lover of fresh culinary goodness. As a child, my Chinese mother (like many other Asian immigrants in the US) shopped only at the local Chinese grocery store or at open air markets. These were the places that had food my mother considered “edible.” I remember being 8yrs old with my mom in a Safeway grocery store and watching her try to shop for our family. She was puzzled looking at all the boxed food and suddenly grabbed a loaf of Wonder bread and said to me, “This is not food. I don’t know how they sell this.”

And so research on the HOPE Farmers Market began! Who knew there were so many different and amazing farmers markets around the US, each with great formats, ideas and locations? As luck would have it, just a few weeks into gathering research I had an interesting meeting with a guy named Greg Esparza followed by visit from a girl named Emily Stengel. Greg was a recent UT Architecture graduate with a passion for community projects, and Emily had run the Art market at ACL Music Festival for the past few years – instant friendship! Together, we made the perfect team to start the first East side farmers market that would support and be supported by artists, musicians and local neighborhood families.

And so you have it. Since October 2009, many great stories, moments and relationships have happened at the HOPE Farmers Market. We’re ready for many many more to come at it’s new home at Plaza Saltillo!

Andi Scull Cheatham
Founder & Executive Producer
HOPE Campaign | HOPE Events

Next up: Emily Stengel, HOPEFM founder and current Event Services Manager at C3 Presents…