Virginia Highland Farmers Market gathers community


Katie Sigal

Booths lined up at the Virginia Highland Farmers Market on August 12th. The lineup of vendors change every week depending on popularity and season.

Katie Sigal

Every Thursday from 4 to 8 p.m. lies an abundance of fruits, vegetables and crafts scattered around Virginia Highlands. Once a week, Community Farmers Market, a nonprofit organization in Atlanta, hosts the Virginia Highlands Farmers Market, a temporary market that brings residents of the neighborhood together. 

Before it was established, Virginia Highland did not have a running market. Community members would have to venture to another area to get fresh foods. People wanted a more healthy and locally sourced food source, which stemmed the idea for a local farmer’s market. 

“The Virginia Highlands District was interested in having a market so they reached out to Community Farmers Market about collaborating for this project.,” manager of the Virginia Highland location, Moira O’Neill said. “The Virginia Highlands District sponsors the farmers market.” 

Farmers markets not only offer fresh and healthy foods, but also an opportunity for the community to gather and strengthen relationships between neighbors.

“Farmers Markets bring a community together and teach people about local food,” O’Neill said. “It’s a nice gathering place and I like seeing the way that friendships are built between vendors and customers. We really want to make sure that the market is a welcoming place so we have weekly musicians and kids activities. We want it to be a space where people can hang out and spend time with their community members.”

Farmers markets appeal to a wide age group, which makes it perfect for a family-oriented neighborhood like Virginia Highland.

“I think it’s really nice to have a farmers market so close in the neighborhood,” junior Jeffery Hallett said. “I went the first week it was open back in April and thought it was a nice place for family and friends to gather. Farmers markets are like festivals, it’s something everyone can enjoy doing together.”

Community Farmers Market emphasizes the importance of choosing local and healthy vendors to supply their markets. Not only do these vendors provide food, but they also cater to the neighborhood’s specific needs.

“Community Farmers Market runs six markets in Atlanta,” O’Neill said. “We already have a broad reach in terms of farms and vendors in the Atlanta area that we use. We try to make sure that we have a variety of products and take into consideration the neighborhood’s likes and requests.”

Products aren’t the only things that are sold, but information as well. Families can learn how to eat healthy and how to encourage others to do the same. Small Bites Adventure Club, a company that provides monthly subscriptions for kids to learn healthy recipes and habits, is one of the many booths at the neighborhood market.

“Small Bites is a nutritional and educational company that helps kids learn different ways to cook, cut and even grow their own food,” Small Bites employee Chey Douglas said. “It’s important because we target the age range that is most important to expose your kids to different types of food. It impacts all the way into adulthood about how they are going to eat and their different food habits.”

Farmers markets can do something grocery stores cannot: allow people to connect with the food they are eating and meet the person who made it. 

“Unlike the grocery store where you can get any food or produce imaginable during any time of the year, the market connects people to the place that they live in. It teaches people about the seasons, and what is available during different times of year,” O’Neill said. “The market also encourages people to cook things that they haven’t before.”

Having healthy options available is vital for a community to thrive. 

“One thing that is very important to Community Farmers Market is having healthy food access,” O’Neill said. “Something at the Virginia Highland Market that we would like to see utilized more is our Double Up SNAP Program. If customers use SNAP or EBT cards, otherwise known as food stamps, they can come to our market and we will match each swipe with a dollar that they can use on fruits and vegetables. We do that to make the farmers market more accessible to people using SNAP.”

Another booth at the market is Noble Honey Co. The company has approximately 25 hives and is located in the South Fulton area. Noble Honey Co. sells a variety of honey, lemonade and bee pollen.

“We get a lot of foot traffic in farmers markets which is good for us,” Noble Honey Co. employee, Armond Wilborn said. “Farmers markets let you talk to the people who are producing or growing your food, and you can actually build a relationship with those people and learn about the process.” 

The addition of a weekly farmers market to the Virginia Highland has not only brought healthy food options to the area, but has drawn the community closer together.

“I personally love the farmers market,” sophomore Charlie Kane said. “My parents go there often and come home with delicious goods and sweet fruit. [The market] only affects the community in beneficial ways. It’s affordable, great and convenient.”