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Farmers markets: Trend still growing
Article By Meridith Ford Goldman
For the Atlanta Journal
Article weblink:
http://www.accessatlanta.com/atlanta-restaurants-food/farmers-markets-trend-still-539355.html

Imagine a place where fresh strawberries peek from happy pint-size baskets;
where tomatoes ripe with flavor and fresh for the choosing are strewn across
the top of a table. Imagine local honey and eggs — even cheese — at a place
so nearby you might just decide to walk instead of drive.
 Sound a little like foodie euphoria? That’s what a local farmers market is
— a little bit of heaven taken home in a basket. Or recyclable bag.

The Atlanta area has blossomed in recent years with the opening of farmers
markets and community-supported agriculture. Urban farms such as Gaia
Gardens and Able 2 Farm are sprouting across the metro area. Ordinary folks
(maybe your neighbors, depending on the regulations of the county you live
in) are keeping chickens and bees in their backyards.

The local food movement has taken root in Georgia, and our farmers markets
are sustainable, seasonal goods’ greatest marketing campaign. According to
Georgia Organics, the number of producer-only markets has increased from 12
in 2004, to 85 in 2009.

“Increased consumer awareness of food safety issues and environmental
concerns has led to a new level of demand for sustainably produced local
food,” said Michael Wall, communications director of Georgia Organics. “This
is a full-blown movement fueled by consumer demand, truly pushed from the
ground up. I think people are more informed because, thankfully, the science
behind the dangers of pesticides is getting more robust. Another story came
out ... linking certain pesticide residues with [attention-deficit
hyperactivity disorder] in children. That rightfully worries parents. And of
course, the obesity epidemic has many people searching for solutions, which
inevitably leads back to food.”

A crop of cookbooks has capitalized on the country’s return to the farm,
from James Beard award-winner Deborah Madison’s classic “Local Flavors:
Cooking and Eating From America’s Farmers’ Markets” (Broadway Books, $26) to
the newly crafted “Southern Living Farmers Market Cookbook” (Oxmoor House,
$29.95).

This new book takes a look at markets from season to season, and offers tips
on selecting and storing fresh produce, as well as listings of farmers
markets and food festivals across the South, including Savannah’s Shrimp &
Grits Festival in September and Taste of Atlanta in October. For a
comprehensive listing of local markets, check out the AJC’s online guide at
www.ajc.com or go to www.georgiaorganics.org for a complete list of local
and sustainable markets. Supporting these markets will help all our gardens
grow, literally, but we’ve still got a long way to go.

“The local food movement is absolutely taking shape in Georgia, thanks to
the great symbiosis between passionate chefs and dedicated farmers,” Wall
said. “We’ve come a long way but we’re still fledglings in some ways,
especially when it comes to the actual number of certified organic acres in
Georgia. It’s dismal, less than one percent of farmable land.”

So if the fresh tomatoes, fragrant basil and promise of a healthier diet
don’t lure you, consider this: Farmers markets are just fun to visit. Many
offer chef demonstrations, freshly baked bread and local artisans between
aisles of okra and tomatoes. And you can get to know the farmers who grow
the food, too — that guy or gal behind the picnic table is probably someone
who regularly gets their hands dirty — in a good way.

-- 
Dr. Teri Hamlin
North Region Agriculture Education
Georgia Department of Education
204C Four Towers University of Georgia
Athens, Ga 30602
706-542-3679 / 706-540-0032
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