Year-round farmers markets attract customers

Many people start the new year with resolutions. One of the most typical resolutions is to eat healthier, a goal that can be made easier through farmers markets.

Atlanta is full of many local farmer’s markets, some of which operate year-round. One of the most prominent is the Freedom Farmers Market at the Carter Center.

Barbara Musolf has come to the market since it opened in 2014.

“[I like this market because] it’s a year-round market,” Musolf said. “And it’s close to my house compared to some of the other farmers markets.”

There are many things that make the Freedom Farmers Market appealing to customers. The market has a token exchange for those paying with a credit or debit card or with SNAP/EBT (government program, formerly known as food stamps) to swipe their card for tokens. The tokens function as cash for the vendors. The market partners with Wholesome Wave Georgia in the Georgia Fresh 4 Less program to double the tokens for anyone using a SNAP/EBT card to promote healthier eating habits.

One of the regular vendors at the Freedom Farmers Market is Mary Hart Rigdon, the owner and operator of Decimal Place Farms, a goat dairy farm in Conley, GA.

“We milk twice a day, every day and make cheese every day but Saturday because Saturday I am here at the Freedom Farmers Market,” Rigdon said. “We make creamy goat cheese, feta goat cheese, mozzarella goat cheese and cheddar goat cheese.”

The Morningside Famers Market is another popular farmers market for people in the Grady Cluster. This market operates year-round and is unique, as every vendor is certified organic.

Chris Willoughby is a regular customer at the Morningside Farmers Market. He has been going to the Sandy Springs market for 10 years in the spring and fall and to Morningside in the winter for three years.

“We try to buy as much of our produce and as much of our meat and eggs locally as we can and this is the easiest way to do that,” Willoughby said.

Willoughby’s reasons for shopping at farmers markets line up with the many benefits they provide. Shopping local keeps more money in the community. Farmers markets have produce that is fresher than stores because markets tend to be closer than stores and more sustainable because of a higher proportion of organic farmers as well as fewer carbon emissions from transportation.

“Either that [the produce] is organic or certified naturally grown is important to us,” said Willoughby.

Rigdon started her Atlanta farmers market career at the Morningside Farmers Market by working as market manager. However, because her produce is not completely organic, she cannot be a vendor at Morningside.

“Because I use a commercial grain, I’m not totally organic,” Rigdon said. “There’s not an organic grain for sale in Georgia, and I’d have to bring it in from Texas or Virginia, and I’m not having it hauled all over the place\; so, we do what we can. The pastures are all maintained organically, and [the goats] are out getting 70 percentof their diet outside. But I didn’t qualify for Morningside for using the grain.”

Rigdon has also sold her goat milk and cheese at the Peachtree Road Farmers Market and the Grant Park Farmers Market.

“I did the Grant Park Farmers Market, and there, people would come and they’d be visiting at the market, but the sales were not as consistent because they weren’t going right home.They’d have a picnic at the park, and let the children play so they were always nervous about buying the cheese because they wanted to make sure to take it home and get it cold,” said Rigdon.

Participating in and going to other farmers markets has shown Rigdon what she loves most about the Freedom Farmers Market.

“The Freedom Farmers Market is here for farmers. It was put together by farmers,” Rigdon said. “So, what you see at the different booths are vegetables and things that are grown basically by the people that are bringing them. There’s not a lot of jewelry and crafts and those kinds of things. Christmastime, they invite those extra vendors for that. But the core of this market is farmers doing their farming.”

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