With Farmers Atlanta Road Market in Smyrna opening Tuesday, Dunwoody Green Market opening Wednesday, and East Lake, Peachtree Road and Sandy Springs farmers markets opening Saturday, it’s safe to say the spring farmers market season is upon us.
So what’s it to you?
Maybe a lot. There’s more going on at the typical farmers markets than meets the eye. Here’s a smattering of reasons why you should frequent the one nearest you:
1. Farmers markets are fun. This ain’t a boring trip to a grocery store. Thanks to a little healthy competition between markets, the managers are almost coming up with new ways to draw in customers. On any given day at any given farmers market, you may encounter local musicians, a cooking demo from an area chef, a children’s concert, a dog parade.
2. Farmers markets offer the healthiest food. Check the policies at your nearby market; most require vendors to raise food without man-made pesticides or fertilizers. Often, food was harvested within several hours of market time, when it’s at its most nutritious.
3. Farmers markets offer the best-tasting food. What could taste better than a fresh-picked strawberry or an egg from a free-roaming chicken? Nothing. Really.
4. Farmers markets support the local economy. Most markets put a mileage limit on their vendors, guaranteeing that they are based in the region. When you spend your hard-earned money at a farmers market, you can be assured that much of it will stay in the area.
5. Farmers markets support fledgling businesses. Entrepreneurs have discovered that farmers markets offer a low-cost way to test a new business concept. By shopping there, you help small business people gauge which products sell, and which ones don’t.
6. Farmers markets are educational. What better way to teach your children about healthy eating than by setting a good example? Take your kids to markets and encourage them to ask farmers and other producers anything they want to know about products.
7. Farmers markets are educational. This one gets two spots, because grownups can learn at farmers markets, too. Discover a new vegetable. Stay for a cooking demo and learn how to prepare it. Ask a meat producer why they choose to raise livestock on pasture instead of feedlots. You may be surprised by all that you learn.
8. Farmers markets are a great way to meet your neighbors. I never cease to be amazed at how freakin’ friendly everyone is at a farmers market. In the past week alone, I’ve had conversations at markets about: dogs I have known, the egg-laying habits of hens, hopes and dreams of the newly married, cooking methods for fava beans, the history of sugar cane mills in Georgia, business hours of a local coffee shop, the charms of Western North Carolina, the popularity of green peas. All with (formerly) complete strangers.
9. Farmers markets are a great way to meet farther-flung neighbors. It’s often said that Georgia is actually two states: metro Atlanta and everyone else. Many vendors at Atlanta-area markets come in from that “other” Georgia beyond the ‘burbs. Interaction between city folk and country folk fosters good feelings and better understanding all around.
10. Farmers markets may solve your problem about what to serve for dinner. Fresh, whole foods are the cornerstone of every farmers market, but there’s usually a good supply of “fast foods,” too—the kind you can feel OK about serving your family. Pick up some freshly made pasta, or some handmade tamales and salsa, or maybe even a pizza made with ingredients gathered at the market. Then go visit the guy or gal selling salad greens, and you’re good to go.
11. Farmers markets are bigger than all of that. They may look like a place to buy stuff, and they are. But they’re also incubators of Great Ideas. Participants at farmers markets are engaging in a grand social and fiscal experiment, testing—sometimes purposefully, sometimes incidentally—new ways to distribute food, to create locally based economies, and to build community. When you go, you are part of something huge. Something that is just on the horizon, waiting to explode and change everything. Something that could shift the way we spend, the way we eat, the way our daily lives are structured, for generations to come.
And you thought you were just going shopping.
Images: Scenes from East Atlanta and Sandy Springs farmers markets