By Cathi Arora
Seasonal farmers markets are springing into action this month and offering fresh, local produce and specialty items as well as entertainment, activities and education.
And if the surge of area farmers markets in the past few years is any indication, residents in Buckhead, Brookhaven, Sandy Springs and Dunwoody are seeking locally grown foods that taste better, are better for the environment, and support the local economy.
The Dunwoody Green Market, a producer-only farmers market located at 1551 Dunwoody Village Parkway, opens Wednesday, April 13. It offers plenty of naturally grown produce, cured meats, local honey and fresh bakery.
Run by farmers and artisans, Dunwoody Green Market maintains a special relationship with its customers, many of them members of their community supported agriculture (CSA) program. A prepaid CSA membership creates a partnership between the farmer, with a guaranteed sale, and the consumer, with a guaranteed pick of the harvest.
Dunwoody Green Market’s CSA is unique because it’s a cooperative arrangement among three main growers offering a variety of fruits and vegetables each week.
“We provide fresh, local, seasonal, nutritional food,” said CSA farmer Paul Guilbeau of Heirloom Gardens in Cumming.
“This gives families a chance to maybe eat something they’ve never eaten,” Guilbeau said. “It gives people a chance to try seasonal vegetables.”
The CSA program serves between 30 and 50 families each week with about 10 to 12 different items depending on the season.
“Sometimes we’ll have to give double tomatoes or double blueberries, if we have an abundance during the season,” said Guilbeau. “Nobody ever complains. They get it. People just get so excited about tomatoes.”
“It amazes me how the community embraces us,” said Guilbeau. “This is our livelihood. To directly support us, it means a lot.”
Buckhead’s Peachtree Road Farmers Market, at Cathedral of St. Philip, 2744 Peachtree Road, is now in its fifth year and opens April 9. It promises to offer the old favorites and a few new surprises.
“It’s early spring so expect to see carrots, beets, lettuce, kale, early potatoes, herbs and transplants,” said Lauren Carey, manager, Peachtree Road Farmers Market.
As the area’s largest producer-only market, its 70 farmers and vendors must grow, raise or make what they sell. In addition, all items must be “certified naturally grown” or “certified organic.” They must also use more humane and environmentally friendly practices.
Carey said they are looking at a few new farmers and vendors to round out the supply and demand.
“We just couldn’t keep eggs,” said Carey. “This year we want our customers to be able to get eggs, whether you get there at 9 [a.m.] or noon.”
Carey said market officials try to offer a diverse array of products. “We want it fresh and different,” Carey said. “We want to make it worthwhile for you to shop at every booth because everything is unique.”
New items this year will be locally produced olive oil and what Carey describes as “high-end Pop Tarts” made with whole wheat organic flour and seasonal, locally grown and produced fillings.
New this season, the Peachtree Road Farmers Market is teaming up with Captain Planet to offer monthly hands-on activities for children to learn about the earth, environment and growing food.
New kid on the block Sandy Springs Farmers Market opens April 16 in the parking lot of the former Target store at 235 Sandy Springs Circle. Now in its second year, organizers say they want to improve the quantity and selection of produce offered in the market and to create more “eat-there” opportunities. The market is open on Saturday mornings.
“This is the best slow-down time,” said market co-founder Andy Bauman. “Saturday is the one day you can slow down. Bring your dog, bring your paper, have a cup of coffee.”
The Sandy Springs Farmers Market will continue to host local musical entertainment and children’s activities.
Bauman said consumer education is a major goal this year. The market’s promoters plan to use e-mail and Facebook to improve community awareness of market happenings as well as connect consumers to the growers.
“Everything starts with the farmers,” said Bauman. “They are our hearts and we have grown to love and treasure our farmers.”
Chamblee also had two start-ups last year and both Chamblee Tucker Farmers Market at North East Baptist Church and the Chamblee Farmers Market will return this month.
The Chamblee Tucker Farmers Market will open the season with an Easter Egg Hunt April 23. The community event will include food, games and 2000 eggs kicking off the market, which features local produce, handmade dog treats and fair trade coffee.
“Our farmers market is neighborhood central,” said Brian Wright, Pastor, North East Baptist Church. “It’s a place to get a cup of coffee and visit with neighbors.”
The Chamblee Farmers Market, located in the city’s historic district, opens April 30 with live music from Jules and the Gents. This year, the market will add new farmers and an improved CSA.
Also a community-centric event, Chamblee is run by a volunteer board that saw a void in their area and a demand for local, farm-fresh produce.
“We wanted to provide an option for ourselves and our neighbors, ” said Alan Moise, President, Chamblee Farmers Market Board of Directors.
Another option for area shoppers is the Drive-Thru Farmers Market at Old Five Points. Organizers take advantage of a busy Brookhaven intersection at Johnson Ferry and Ashford Dunwoody.
Every Thursday from 4 p.m. to 8 p.m., commuters can stop by this small, but easily accessible market, which features local artisans, fresh tamales, and other locally prepared food items.
Farmers markets now offer e-mail blasts, Facebook pages, and comprehensive websites. For details regarding chef demonstrations, musical acts, harvest schedules, CSA sign ups and additional information, contact your local farmers market.