Farm markets growing in Lanier area
By Jane Harrison
The floodplains of the rivers and streams in the watershed of Lake Lanier historically yielded bountiful harvests for Native Americans and early settlers in agrarian communities. That rich agricultural heritage seems to be experiencing a rebirth in the current boom of farm markets striving to meet demands for locally grown produce.
“The interest has snowballed,” said Hall County Cooperative Extension Coordinator Michael Wheeler. “People are interested in where their food comes from, who’s growing it, and how it’s grown.” As a result, he said, “there’s a lot going on” to get fresh crops from farm to table.
This summer, farmers’ markets, Community Supported Agriculture co-ops, and traditional produce stands at area farms are drawing thousands of shoppers weekly to get their fresh tomatoes, peaches, green beans, squash and a plethora of other fresh picks.
Nada Bunnell was one of more than 200 shoppers at the Historic Downtown Gainesville Market on the Square on a Friday afternoon in June. “I’ve been coming four years and have only missed a week,” said Bunnell, relishing her cache of zucchini, tomatoes and blackberries. She said she enjoys “talking with the people” who grow the food she takes to her kitchen. “It’s like a little community here on Fridays,” she said. The weekly gathering mixes farm fresh fare, plus salsa, fruit popsicles, organic body scrubs, and flowers with cooking demonstrations and chef cook-offs.
Market manager Steve Thomas estimated the lunch crowd on a late June Friday at around 280 people. Plenty of folks filtered in during the afternoon when Thomas chopped up his raw beetroot and carrot salad, which vanished in about 20 minutes. Tomatoes take center stage in July, when Thomas plans to prepare his Mothership Tomato Salad, tomato sandwiches, and gazpacho. Response to the market, which has grown from a handful of vendors in 2008 to a capacity of 24, has been “excellent,” Thomas said.
Kade and Kyler Bloom, from Bloom Organics near Chestnut Mountain, manned the family’s first booth at the Gainesville market last month. By late afternoon, they had just about sold all the blueberries, green beans, yellow squash and cucumbers they brought from their parents’ eight acre farm. The boys, age 12 and 13, help out on the farm which produces crops without chemical fertilizers and pesticides.
David White, who operates “It Began with a Seed Farm” in Lula has been selling his harvest for 11 years at the Hall County Farmers Market on Jesse Jewell Parkway. On a June morning, he answered questions about five varieties of green beans and advised flash heat for a quick side dish of skinny French beans. He and other farmers shared their knowledge with shoppers eager to put locally grown food on their plates.
White, who says he’s “real intimate” with tomatoes, will offer 25 varieties of his beloved fruit from about 1,000 plants he staked by hand. Not only does he sell from markets in three counties, he also offers his harvest to customers through his Community Supported Agriculture partnership, or CSA. Many pick up their weekly baskets at the Tuesday morning Farmers Market.
According to White’s brochure, CSA farms sell memberships to shareholders who purchase a share of the farm’s anticipated harvest at a preset price. The consumer finances the farm, keeps the farmer out of debt, and picks up a weekly supply of produce at a delivery point. Some farmers take weekly orders via internet or phone. Others pack up a weekly basket of what’s on hand or offer customers a chance to come by the farm and bag up what they want.
Numerous other CSAs have sprouted around Northeast Georgia at farms in Cleveland, Clarkesville, and Cumming. Lynn Pugh, who operates Cane Creek Farm in West Forsyth County, sells organically grown fruits and vegetables to CSA shareholders who get their fresh picks at the farm on Wednesday mornings.
Pugh, a 10-year farmer, has seen a growth of interest in local produce, especially in organic products. That awareness has grown in the last five years, she said, “especially among young mothers who don’t want to subject (their children) to pesticide exposure.”
Glen Cook sells produce from his family’s Cedar Hollow Farm to customers in his 25-family CSA and at Hall County and Gainesville markets. On a June afternoon, his customers picked up potatoes, cabbage, beets and all the sweet corn he could offer at the downtown market. People are craving locally grown food, he said.
Carlysle Cox, of Gainesville, was one of the regular “localvores” shopping recently at the Hall County Farmers Market. He said he comes every week with a list from his wife. He checked off zucchini, white half runner beans, and cucumbers. Like a growing number of satisfied customers, he’ll be back.
A sample of outlets selling locally grown produce:
• Gainesville Market on the Square
: 2:30-6:30 p.m. Fridays through September. www.hallfarmers.org
• Hall County Farmers’ Market: 6 a.m.-sell out Tuesdays, 7 a.m.-sell out Saturdays through October, corner East Crescent/Jesse Jewell Pkwy. (770) 531-6988.
• Spout Springs Library Farmers’ Market:
4-7 p.m. Thursdays, Spout Springs Library Parking Lot, 6488 Spout Springs Rd., Flowery Branch, email@example.com
• Jaemor Farms
: 7 a.m.-7 p.m. Mon.-Sat. June-Aug; 7 a.m.-6 p.m. Sept.-May; 5340 Cornelia Hwy (Ga. 365), www.jaemorefarms.com
., (770) 869-3999.
• Cumming Farmers’ Market: 7 a.m. Wed. & Sat. through Sept., Castleberry Rd. across from Cumming Fairgrounds, (770) 887-2418.
Community Supported Agriculture Farms and Co-ops
• It Began With a Seed Farm: 365 Lula Farm Road, Lula, (706) 869-7467
• Cedar Hollow Farm: 361 Ray Pardue Rd., Cleveland. (706) 219-3032
“Locally Grown” Events
• Farm to Fork: Farm market, music, guest speakers, children’s activities, demonstrations, 2-7 p.m. Aug. 11, North Georgia Technical College, Currahee Campus, 8989 Hwy 17 South, Toccoa, $10 per vehicle. (706) 754-7714.
Other events: Most farmers markets previously listed also schedule special activities. See websites or contact information for details.