BY JAMIE LOBER MAR 2011
Georgia peaches and pecans are world-renown but eating locally-grown food is about more than eating rich, juicy peaches and delicious pecan pie. Our area is home to a number of markets that are anything but the typical grocery store. Markets are part of a community’s moral economy. Markets sustain local farmers. Markets also are a place to mingle and enjoy what you have in common with others. We are fortunate that Georgia has a mild winter and a long season for growing fruits and vegetables.
Consequently, fresh produce is available to us for longer periods of time compared to the rest of the country. Here are our top picks of local markets!
Yvonne’s Natural Market
This is a family-owned business where each customer is made to feel welcome. “Most of our new customers know all of our names by the time they leave, and they know us for our personalized, helpful service,” said Yvonne Mourfield, owner. The market takes pride in being certified organic by primarily using a distributor out of Florida and in the summer, turning to a distributor in Georgia. The seeds are organic and the water used does not have chlorine or other chemicals because it is purified.
The options are enormous. “We have a lot year-round but we draw from U.S. farmers, Costa Rica and Argentina during the wintertime when we cannot get fruits because they have opposite seasons,” said Mourfield. Glancing around the store, you will see oranges, grapefruits, strawberries, blueberries, raspberries, blackberries, avocados, pears and bananas. In vegetables, beets, cucumbers, white potatoes, oriental and regular sweet potatoes, cabbage, sprouts, and baby spinach are just a few choices. “Carrots and lettuce are the most popular because of juicing and the lettuce for salads,” said Mourfield. If you stop in often enough, you may catch some short-season deals like black sapote. 4123 Forsyth Rd., Suite C, Macon, (478) 254-3670.
Macon State Farmers Market
Macon State Farmers’ Market sells more than Christmas trees. It is open year round with long rows of locally grown fruits and vegetables. In “BLDG “E,” you’ll find produce sold by local farmers. “BLDG “D” has the re-sellers. Great prices. Some organic produce is available. 2055 Eisenhower Parkway, Macon, (478) 752-1097.
If you are looking for local produce, locally-made items, jewelry, crafts, arts, and entertainment— all in one location—this is the place to be. Some foods are organic which means they have fewer preservatives and have been grown chemical-free. Look for USD certified labels to be certain. “It is nice to support the local farmers and it keeps them in business because our market has grown so much,” said Lindsay Timms, market coordinator. Some vendors are making it big. One vendor even started a produce co-op through the market and now delivers locally-grown produce to over twenty-four people in town.
Everyone has a personal favorite from the selection including everything from fresh shrimp to handmade soaps to work by local artists. “I like lettuce and DNA farms has amazing sprouts,” said Timms. Local musicians, violinists and church groups donate their time to perform. “It is a great event that has grown a lot in the last two years because of where we are located,” said Timms. It is also part of a larger initiative to encourage people to adopt greener lives and buy locally-grown produce as a way to reduce their carbon footprint. Wesleyan Market takes place on the second Saturday of every month from April through November. 4760 Forsyth Rd., Macon, (478) 757-5233.
Macon Market is referred to as City Market on the Green. It will be open on March 19 and 26 in downtown Macon and after that, will be open every first and third Saturday from 10am–2pm through December. “The market provides local produce, arts and crafts which include hand-carved canes, handmade soaps, baked goods, jewelry, produce and much more,” said Brad Holloway. You never know what you will find. “Vendors are all local and change weekly so there is always a variety,” said Holloway. Poplar St. & 3rd St., Macon, (478) 318-8475
Milltown Market & Dawson’s Kitchen
The Milltown Market, owned by Susan and Dawson Moore, sells fresh produce, with most of that being processed, meaning that the beans have already been snapped, the squash cut, the corn shucked, and the peas already shelled and picked. Local produce is sold when available. Field-picked, red tomatoes are their specialty. The Market includes an onsite bakery called Dawson’s Kitchen which was established in 1997. They produce fresh bakery items such as brownies, pies, cookies, cakes and their baked specialty—cheese straws. They also produce the original Bateman and Wade Pimiento Cheese, chili, vegetable soup, gazpacho, brunswick stew, almond chicken salad, yeast bread and rolls. Many types of the famous Mennonite cakes arrive every Thursday night. 3360 Brookdale Ave. Payne City, (off Vineville), dawsonskitchen.com, (478) 742-9852
Lane Southern Orchards
Since 1908, Lane Southern Orchards has planted, grown and harvested the best-tasting peaches and pecans in Georgia. In April and May, you can pick your own strawberries, and school groups are invited to come out for a fun and education field trip. Starting mid-May they begin harvesting their fresh, Georgia peaches, which are available until August. In October, harvesting of pecans begins and are available year round in the shell or shelled. November brings fresh citrus from Lane’s Sister Company in Florida. Just off of I-75 at Exit 142, www.lanesouthernorchards.com, (800) 277-3224.
Local Harvest—Perry Farmer’s Market
Perry Farmer’s Market takes place every Saturday morning from 8am until noon during the months of May through November. They offer in-season produce from local vendors along with homemade canned and baked goods and fresh honey. Whether you are looking for dairy and eggs, chocolates, herbs, lavender, meats and shellfish or even a Christmas wreath, this is your one-stop-shop. You can also anticipate delicious syrups, farm and garden equipment and even items to help meet your pet’s needs. Soaps and body care products as well as wool and fibers are sure to grab the knitters’ attention. Meeting St., Downtown Perry, Corner of Washington St. and Commerce St., Perry, (478) 988-2757.
Forsyth Farmer’s Market
Produce and Georgia-produced goods are furnished by the Savannah Local Food Collaborative. You can pick up amazing goods and support local business at once. A few appearing vendors include Clark and Sons Organics, Mary Curly the Herb Lady, Joseph Fields Farm and Hope Grows. Monts Farm, Moonthyme Garden and Nursery, Oaktree Farm and Thrive Café are also popular. Forsyth Farmer’s Market, South End of Forsyth Park, Forsyth.
How to Choose & Store Fresh Produce
Feel the produce. Most produce is very hard when it is not yet ripe. Produce with just a little give is better; too much give indicates the beginning of decay.
Check the color. Produce is supposed to have rich, vibrant color, in the appropriate shades. If a piece of produce has a pale color or is green, pass it over for something with more color.
Take stock. When you get the produce home and start to use it, make mental notes of how the best tasting produce looks and feels. Also make note of how the poor selections look and feel.#