Farm to Neighborhood

Farm to Neighborhood

How shopping farmers markets can feel as good as it tastes?

IN AN ERA of traditional businesses making pivots to serve their customers more directly, farmers markets are rising to the unique challenges too. This spring marks the first anniversary of the Oakhurst Farmers Market and season opening of the Decatur Farmers Market with both showing strong signs of consumer support.

“Decatur wants to invest in its local growers and local agriculture,” said Casey Hood, manager of the Oakhurst and Decatur markets for Community Farmers Markets (CFM). CFM was founded in 2011 by leaders in the local food movement to meet demand for community-based, sustainable food options. CFM currently manages both the Oakhurst and Decatur markets and “envisions a future in which Atlanta will be home to a diverse, interconnected food system that promotes healthy food, sustainable ecosystems and living-wage working conditions.”

DL_Farmers-Market_Jenna-Mobley-creditWhile shopping the farmers market might result in a delicious snack or interesting conversation, these markets are important in developing a web of food security, promoting social capital and building community roots. They also have boosted the revenue of businesses that have been financially hit hard by the pandemic.

Oakhurst Market vendor Tammie Brooks owns and runs the locally sourced clean skincare brand 68th & Monroe. Brooks estimates that between 80 and 90 percent of her business’s revenue comes from her presence at the market. “Farmers markets right now are the lifeline for our business,” she said. “Our customers are very loyal, and we don’t pass up an opportunity to introduce ourselves and educate folks on our intentional ingredients that provide a holistic approach to skin’s well-being.”

Besides traditional farm products such as produce, meat and dairy, market vendors provide locally-sourced creations to explore tastes globally, such as handcrafted Cajun sausages from Real Cajun Market, local produce and baked goods by Snapfinger Farms, and pre-packaged Indian bites from Nisha’s Flavors of India. There’s even an option for eco-friendly cleaning products from Squeaky Green Cleaning.

While the pandemic has changed some of the safety protocol for shopping, it has also inspired more local support. “People value connecting with local businesses and local farmers even more, and there’s just this great appreciation being shared,” says Hood about the relationships between vendors and market goers.

Safety is important, and both markets are taking precautions including requiring masks, providing ample hand sanitizing stations, distancing vendor tents, keeping capacity limits low and incentivizing vendors to provide touchless checkout. And while once dog-friendly, fur babies are not currently permitted out of an abundance of caution.

These markets are also important layers of the web of food security by bringing together an array of vendors to provide a diverse pallet of nutritious foods and ingredients with mutual respect between consumers and producers shown through fair pricing.

Kirsten Simmons, farmer at Ecosystem Farms said “the ability for the market to match SNAP/EBT dollars with an equal amount of tokens for fruits and veggies so that when a customer spends $10 of EBT, they can get $20 worth of fresh farmers market produce is incredible. For the market to provide a space for local farmers to participate and help expand accessibility to fresh food is something I am really proud of.”

Organizations like CFM maintain strong standards for their vendors to enable these results. For instance, in order to achieve CFM’s dedication to providing the best quality and hyper local products, vendors are assessed on a criteria. Vendors must be within a 200 mile radius from the market space. Farm sites are inspected by CFM, and any vendor preparing foods must first source additional ingredients from other vendors at the market, creating a micro-economy within markets.

Oakhurst Farmers Market is open every Saturday from 9 a.m. to 1 p.m. in the front lot of Sceptre Brewing Arts in Harmony Park (located at 630 East Lake Drive.) Decatur Farmers Market will be open beginning March 31st every Wednesday evening from 4 to 7 p.m. at First Baptist Church Decatur, 308 Clairemont Avenue.

Keep updated with many of the businesses mentioned in this article by following them on Instagram at the handles below: