Veggie Table opens as a Liberty Hill co-op market
By Dana Delgado
Don’t let her small stature or free-flowing silver tresses fool you.
Behind those wire-rimmed glasses and subtle smile, there is plenty of grit and forward-thinking determination in the heart and soul of Liberty Hill resident and current City Council member and Mayor Pro Tem Liz Branigan.
As a long-time critical care nurse at Austin’s University Medical Center Brackenridge, Branigan provided the kind of life-saving care that brought acclaim to the trauma center. Her mother as well as an aunt had been nurses so it was only natural that she pursued a career in healthcare.
Now retired from nursing for the last two years and having “loads of time on my hands”, Branigan has immersed herself in nature. Instead of caring for patients, she is nurturing vegetable plants in an extended garden, is raising chickens, and is reaching out to the community to join her in bringing natural produce, fresh eggs, flowering plants, baked goods, and unique locally-made arts and crafts to market.
In this case, the market is her specially-designed Veggie Table, a crafted co-op stand with a greenhouse in the back in the midst of three acres, some dotted with wildflowers and a parcel reserved for cultivation.
Located at 405 Loop 332 in Liberty Hill, only a stone’s throw from Lions Foundation Park, Branigan is relishing her moments gardening as she is constantly accompanied and entertained by a beloved variety of birds nesting in the area. None is as spectacular as the roaming Peacock.
“I went back to my roots,” said Branigan, who has been gardening most of her life but to a much smaller scale before retirement.
“You know what’s in it,” she says about her homegrown produce. “It’s also fresh because you know when you picked it and it’s much more nutritious.”
Her parents operated a truck garden near Taylor where they sold homegrown produce out of a truck bed and even shipped some of their product to Houston.
“We’re Texans so we were always close to the land,” Branigan said. “We grew everything we ate.”
Recent heart surgery has not slowed, but in fact has spurred, the avid gardener and naturalist from her passion for a healthy lifestyle and the growth of the town.
She is engaged in the development of parks as a member of the Council and sees the town on the threshold of “a new era.”
For the past couple of years, Branigan has been visiting various farmers markets from Burnet to Georgetown. “I learned about how to sustain a lifestyle without having things refrigerated,” she said.
“I learned the sense of community among these growers, their connection to the land, their creativity, and how they connected the past to the future. I just knew I wanted to open a venue where I could provide these things and start a co-op.”
With the knowledge learned, Branigan, with help from her son and grandson, constructed The Veggie Table building from recycled materials. She built a water collection system around a 3,000-gallon tank and connected it to her sprinkler system and has been composting to provide natural nutrients to her plants. With loving care, she says 20 kinds of heirloom tomatoes, squash, eggplants, along with other summer vegetables are bursting out with promise of a great crop.
Branigan said she plans to expand her garden in the near future and hopes to develop a community garden for Liberty Hill.
Opened in mid-March, The Veggie Table has already gotten the attention of the Liberty Hill community.
“The whole thing is exciting,” said Branigan, who moved to Liberty Hill from Leander in the mid-1970s during the sculpture exposition and Willie Nelson picnics, which she vividly recalls. Her family was originally from the Bastrop-Caldwell County area, but traveled a lot. Eventually, the family landed in Dallas where Branigan attended school while her father went to college to become a high school teacher.
The market on Loop 332 will be open Friday-Sunday during the spring growing season. Currently, The Veggie Table is open on Friday 2-6 p.m., Saturday 9 a.m. – 2 p.m., and Sunday from 2-6 p.m.