By Patti Willard

Positive seeds have been planted at the corner of 2nd Avenue and Hosea Williams, at the convergence of the East Lake, Oakhurst, and Kirkwood neighborhoods. Last year East Lake resident Doug Williams started a small but functional farmers market against all odds.

“We got the green light to hold the market at the end of March, and we managed to pull together a small but wonderful selection of vendors to participate by mid-May, operating all season on a shoestring budget,” Williams said.

Williams, along with his wife Amy, personally set-up and managed the market every Saturday for 26 weeks. Each week, over 100 neighbors from around the area supported the market, usually arriving on foot or on bike, or while pushing their children in strollers.

“I love being part of the market,” Amy Williams said, “to me it is as much a wonderful social experience as anything else… getting to meet and know your neighbors, taking time to talk with and meet the farmers and artisans who grow, harvest, and handcraft their products, asking a farmer about how to prepare a vegetable that you’ve never tried before.”

Last year Amy ran the East Lake Garden Club table, which sold edible flowers, fresh-picked bouquets, gardening-related merchandise and handcrafted gifts. The East Lake Farmers (ELF) Market’s mission is to strengthen the local economy, and to encourage healthy lifestyles by promoting products and programs from local farmers, businesses, and artisans, while pursuing vendor practices, programs and partnerships that have environmental, social, and economic integrity.

Many improvements are underway for the 2010 ELF Market season, which opens Saturday, May 1, with a ‘Collard Greens Cook-Off’ benefitting Hosea Feed the Hungry.

The newly-named ELF Market is now a non-profit corporation, supervised by a dedicated and diverse board of directors. The market will be hiring a market manager to oversee the week-to-week operations, and will have funds for community events, marketing, and operational support.

The market also plans to purchase EBT equipment that will enable the use of food stamps, making fresh, healthy produce more available to all. Community fundraisers, live music, bike maintenance workshops and market demonstrations are being planned throughout the season.

“We are also developing ‘best practices and policies’ that will be shared openly with other markets around the state and country, to help other communities strengthen their local food networks,” said Doug Williams. “Booth fees will remain low to support our farmers and maximize vendor participation.”

All of these plans are contingent on the financial support from neighbors, business, and other local organizations. The ELF Market is now accepting donations for the 2010 season. To make a donation and become a sponsor, email Doug Williams at eastlakefarmersmarket@gmail.com or visit the market website at www.eastlakefarmersmarket.com.

Collin Kelley

Collin Kelley has been the editor of Atlanta Intown for two decades and has been a journalist and freelance writer for 35 years. He’s also an award-winning poet and novelist.