Farmers markets 2.0? Maybe so

When East Atlanta Farmers Market opens Thursday, and when the new Grant Park Farmers Market opens May 15, there will be much rejoicing over all the good food and fun. But even more interesting is what’s going on behind the scenes.

The two markets are being overseen by a new organization, Community Farmers Markets, which has a broader mission. It will serve as a market incubator, helping these and other neighborhood farmers markets efficiently serve their communities with programs designed to bring good-quality food and nutrition education to everyone.

“We’re focused on making farmers markets more than a place to buy groceries, by making them a community hub,” says Katie Hayes, who will manage both markets through Community Farmers Markets. The organization, which is pursuing 501(c)(3) nonprofit status, will focus on big-picture roles such as educational programming, marketing, and fundraising.

By sharing a market manager, bookkeeping duties and other resources, organizers hope to streamline operations and boost the markets’ overall sustainability, Hayes says.

CFM’s board members, who include local-food heavy-hitters Judith Winfrey (leader of Slow Food Atlanta), Jonathan Tescher (Georgia Organics farmer services coordinator and East Atlanta Village market founder) and Lauren Carey (Peachtree Road Farmers Market manager), also want the organization to serve as a consulting resource for other community-oriented markets.

“Running a farmers market, and all the infrastructure and all the organization that’s required, is hard,” Carey says. Markets can benefit from having a “clearinghouse for resources – to talk about vendor admittance, how to lay out the market to maximize your shade, to answer questions about insurance coverage … navigating the ever-changing city policies.”

The model is not new, Carey says. “A lot of other states have statewide associations, and one of those is also being worked on here, a Georgia farmers market association. But Community Farmers Markets addresses the real needs of this community and will help offer the support that’s needed to get markets off the ground.”

At the East Atlanta Village Farmers Market’s new location across from Midway Pub, look for a gardening demos at the Edible Learning Garden, cooking demonstrations, and walking tours of the neighborhood’s chicken coops and fruit and nut trees. The market is also taking its message to neighborhood schools and community centers, offering classes on food preparation, vegetable garden installation, maximizing government nutrition assistance program (SNAP and WIC) benefits, and other wellness topics.

The East Atlanta market will kick off Thursday at 4 p.m. with a Cinco de Mayo piñata, face painting, a yoga class, and chef’s demo, plus drink specials across the street at Midway Pub. The Grant Park market will debut at 10 a.m. May 15 with a seed giveaway, a doggie kissing booth for serious dog lovers, and a youth bike ride.

Check out Market Watch: Our guide to area farmers markets.
Image courtesy of East Atlanta Village Farmers Market.