Farmers markets surprise and disappoint

Today we feature a guest post from Mike Christensen. Follow Mike on Twitter @SCSA31274.

My favorite time of the week is Saturday morning.  Friday and Saturday nights were my thing when I was younger.  As the years roll by I find myself gravitating towards events that occur on Saturday mornings; flea markets, garage sales, car shows and most recently farmers markets. Local farmers markets have sprung up all over.  They are open usually April to October but it varies depending on the season.

Over the last month, I have traveled all over north Fulton and Forsyth county scouting out all the major farmers markets I could find.  I had visions of old farmers with bushels overflowing with fresh, local produce.  What I found was both interesting and surprising.

While the majority of farmers markets historically take place on Saturday mornings, there are a few exceptions.  The Brookwood Farmers Market and the Vickery Creek Farmers Markets, both in south Forsyth, are on Friday afternoons.  Brookwood was disappointing to me.  It seemed that it would be bigger from the information on the web site.  Maybe the constant threat of rain has kept many vendors away.  Another problem I had was the location and the time.  The Brookwood market is held at Caney Creek Park near 141.  The hours of operation are 4-9 PM on a Friday, hardly a time I want to be driving in that congested area.

Vickery Creek is the newest player in the area.  The market is held early Friday afternoon in a blocked off section of the parking lot.  It was here that I noticed something.  Out of the dozen or so booths and tents represented, only two sold actual produce.  The rest were peddling products, gifts, cheese, salsa or whatever.  It took all of five minutes to walk from one end to the other and head back empty handed to my truck.

This trend of not having produce at a farmers market extends to many of the other ones I visited including the Alpharetta and Roswell’s Riverside markets.  The majority of the booths have items or services to sell, not tomatoes.  Jerky, herbs, breads, jewelry and blade sharpening are just a few of the alternatives to veggies that I have seen.

The only ones I’ve been to that are nearly exclusively produce are a few miles north in Cumming.  The Cumming Farmers Market is held early Saturday morning in the parking lot across from the Cumming Fairgrounds. It is what I imagined it would be, old dudes in old trucks with calloused hands selling items that came out of their own fields.  Ask them if it’s organic, and you might get a funny look.

City Produce is another. They are in a medium sized stand closer to downtown Cumming on the corner of Atlanta Hwy and East Maple Street.  You’ll find tons of great looking food, all local to the Southeast.  The peaches were from South Carolina, but mostly from Georgia.  It’s all under cover and well presented.  There’s also jellies and things to buy, but those are near the register and most likely impulse items.

Another trend that emerged was that the farmers markets tended to take on the personality of the area that they were located in.  The Cumming markets were more country, the Alpharetta farmers market was more upscale with a lot of signs with websites and email address. The Roswell market had a larger selection of organic produce and was a more Earth-friendly.  Both the Alpharetta and Roswell markets have live music to entertain you while you shop.

The Alpharetta Farmers Market is the biggest and also the most nomadic.  Previously held on Old Roswell street where the Food Truck Alley is now, it seems they had found a permanent home in the City Hall parking lot.  But the new city center project has ousted the farmers market and now it is located on Old Canton St.  The half-dozen produce stands represented by many local Forsyth and Cherokee county growers have good selections and decent prices.  It’s a good idea to bring your own bags as many places do not supply them.

Several of the markets have web sites and Facebook pages that have tons of information.  If you want nothing but produce without all the extras, take the short trip to Cumming.  If you’re more into the social scene with some produce mixed in, stay in Alpharetta or Roswell.  I usually end up in Alpharetta, munching on a crepe from Crepe Cottage or a cinnamon roll from one of the few bread vendors.  Oh yeah, I guess I’ll pick up a tomato or two.

9 Responses to “Farmers markets surprise and disappoint”

  1. Laura July 29, 2013 at 8:31 am #

    Brookwood was fantastic when it first started (and was a Brookwood Elementary)- lots of fresh, local and organic produce, natural meats and eggs and homemade breads. I used to fill bags there and everything was wonderful. I don’t know what happened to run off all the farmers but that market has become quite disappointing.

  2. Dennis Murray July 29, 2013 at 1:59 pm #

    This has been a ranting of mine this spring. I’ve been trying to find a good farmers market, not necessarily organic but with fresher selections and wider writer than typical grocery stores.

    I’ve shopped the Vickery market and was surprised by $4 a pound green beans and squash. I tried Brookwood and left with nothing but free range eggs.

    I shopped this past week at Jaemor Farms in Alto on my return trip from Asheville and was ecstatic with what I bought. For $20 I had a bucket of peaches, a big bag of tomatoes, sweet onions, yellow squash, and a half peck of sweet potatoes. All but the sweet potatoes were locally grown (but the sweet potatoes looked high quality).

    I’d really like to spend more of my produce money in the local market (not spending money with chain grocery) but its proven hard so far.

  3. S Lee Guy July 29, 2013 at 2:53 pm #

    Dennis, we might have passed you at Jaemor Farms. Was there for the first time yesterday afternoon. Impressed with the offerings and prices.

  4. Scsa31274 July 29, 2013 at 2:57 pm #

    The ones in Cumming have good selections at good prices.

  5. Mala July 31, 2013 at 4:10 pm #

    I just grow my own fruit and veggies for this reason. I don’t want homemade soap or jelly so don’t frequent these fake markets. I planted a fig tree last year and its gorgeous. The cherries, nectarine and apricot trees are tricky but it may be the weather this year. Anyone have any advice on these fruit trees. I plant veggies in big ceramic planters as well as my own herbs. My parents were advid graders even though we lived in a cold climate. They had eight weeks to plant and harvest and freeze or jar all their veggies. They had an average sized back hard and I don’t think they ever bough a green bean or tomato in a grocery store. They were shocked when they first visited ga and noticed that no one planted fruit trees or had a little garden. I encourage everyone to plant a little fruit tree or a pot with a tomato plant. It’s not hard and you’ll know it’s fresh and organic.

  6. Kim July 31, 2013 at 10:13 pm #

    Carlton Farms delivers to the area weekly. You can do vegetable shares or shop the produce they bring in as locally available. We’ve known this family for years and bought from them before they got big…. back when they used to only sell dairy and eggs.

    The quality of the produce is hit or miss. I’ve heard the same about the vegetable shares though we’ve not participated in this personally. It is also not cheap but they do have to pay for their travel/transport.

  7. TomatoesYum August 1, 2013 at 9:41 pm #

    I miss the farmer’s market in Asheville. That’s what I’d love to have around here. Tons of fresh veggies. Don’t want to go to a farmer’s market and buy bananas with a chiquita sticker.

  8. Kate August 6, 2013 at 5:02 pm #

    I live close to the Newtown Park farmer’s market in Johns Creek. It also has more non-produce than I’d prefer. But the produce vendors they do have are good. I’ve gotten everything from organic heirloom tomatoes to purple carrots.

    And they have activities like music and kid’s entertainment, and it’s in a park with ball fields, tennis courts and a big fancy dog park, so it feels very lively on Saturday mornings.

  9. Lisa August 7, 2013 at 8:37 pm #

    I really wish that the growers (do they all grow their own or do they buy wholesale I have wondered) had more ORGANIC and NON-GMO produce and goods. My trips to the Alpharetta market have seemed in vain when in search of the goods I choose to shop for.

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