Metro Atlanta boasts at least a half-dozen year-round farmers markets, but spring is when seasonal markets bloom.
» Find it: Our interactive map of local farmers markets
For shoppers, the obvious draw among the booths and tents is the bounty of fresh produce. But, nowadays, markets also boast local vendors with meat, cheese, pasta, baked goods and prepared foods.
Chef demos, info booths and even live music create a festive atmosphere for learning and socializing. And each market seems to foster a sense of community.
What’s termed “value added” items are a big part of the current farmers market scene, says Holly Hollingsworth, market manager at Freedom Farmers Market, which debuted in spring 2014 and opened for its second season on March 7 at the Carter Center.
“We wanted to have baked goods, pasta, cheese, pickles, jams and jellies,” Hollingsworth says. “Those are the kinds of things that you would pick up if you were going to the grocery store. We also have eggs, chicken, duck, quail, lamb, pork and beef. Really, anything you need to make a meal.”
A unique feature at Freedom is a “pop-up” that showcases a different restaurant every week in a tent where the chefs prepare and sell dishes made from what market vendors are offering that day.
Recently, Avalon Catering’s Jenn Robbins made green garlic and cheese grits with a choice of chard and shiitake mushrooms or sausage and spring onions, plus a fried farm egg option.
Chef and sommelier Mike Patrick, who founded Storico Fresco Pasta to create handmade fresh pastas and sauces from classic Italian recipes, is a fixture among Freedom vendors.
Patrick sold his first batch of pasta at Peachtree Road Farmers Market and soon added Marietta Square Farmers Market. Now, his pasta can be found at Atlanta restaurants such as Cibo e Beve, Local Three and Restaurant Eugene.
“For us, the farmers market is a perfect sales situation,” Patrick says. “It’s a place where you can present your product and interact with customers. It’s where we got our start. There’s no other way we could have done it without a massive capital investment.”
As for Atlanta farmers markets in general, Patrick says he enjoys how each one exhibits its own style and personality.
“Peachtree, Marietta and Freedom are pretty much three very distinct farmers markets, as far as the clientele and the scene,” Patrick says. “Marietta is a great community market with upwards of 100-plus vendors, and 2,000-3,000 people wandering around on a beautiful Saturday morning. Peachtree is a little more focused on farmers and local take-home and prepared products. Freedom is even more focused on food. On any given Saturday, you might see 10 or 15 local chefs wandering around there to see what’s happening.”
A taste of a half-dozen metro Atlanta farmers markets
The scene: A Thursday evening community market with an Edible Learning Garden and a mission to “strengthen the local economy and encourage healthy lifestyles.” Find Georgia produce, meat, dairy, artisanal goods, and weekly cooking demos by neighborhood chefs.
Shop for: Fancy mushrooms from 5th Kingdom; heirloom and foraged vegetables and wild edible plants, mushrooms, fruits and nuts from Crack in the Sidewalk Farmlet; produce and mushrooms from Love Is Love Farm at Gaia Gardens; certified organic vegetables, Berkshire pork, and grass-fed beef from Riverview Farms.
Go: 4-8 p.m. Thursdays, April 16-Dec. 17. 561 Flat Shoals Ave., Atlanta. farmeav.com.
The scene: The year-round community market located at World Harvest Church in Roswell’s Sweet Apple Village offers a lively atmosphere and an array of locally grown produce and artisan products, including fruit and heirloom vegetables, mushrooms, eggs and meat; plus prepared foods, preserves and sauces.
Shop for: Sustainably grown produce and heirloom plants from Buckeye Creek Farm; mushrooms from Farmed and Foraged; barbecue sauce and glaze from Lillian’s Sweet Hawaiian BBQ; heirloom vegetables from McCrary Farms; kale, mustard and collard greens from Rockin’ S Farms.
Go: 3-7 p.m. Thursdays year-round. 320 Hardscrabble Road, Roswell. www.facebook.com/FarmersMarketatSweetAppleVillage.
The scene: A Saturday morning market at the Carter Center “formed by a small group of local farmers who wanted to bring their ‘good food’ to the surrounding neighborhoods.” Find local fresh produce, meat, baked goods and cheese, plus a pop-up tent showcasing a different restaurant each week.
Shop for: Farmstead artisanal goat cheese from Decimal Place Farm; organic pickles from chef Nick Melvin’s Doux South; produce, meat and dairy from Moore Farms and Friends; vegan kimchee, Korean BBQ steam buns and Korean BBQ sauces from Simply Seoul; shiitake, lion’s mane and oyster mushrooms from Sparta Mushrooms.
Go: 9 a.m.-1 p.m. Saturdays, March 7-Dec. 19. 453 Freedom Parkway, Atlanta. freedomfarmersmkt.com.
The scene: A Sunday morning market that opened in May 2011 in Atlanta’s oldest city park and quickly emerged as “a thriving local food hub” that attracts over 1,500 weekly shoppers. Find Georgia produce, meat, dairy, artisanal goods, all sorts of prepared food, and take-away goodies for a picnic in the park, plus local celebrity chef demos.
Shop for: Athens, Ga.-made ravioli and tagliatelle from Antonio’s Fresh Pasta; baguettes, buns and sandwich bread from H&F Bread Co.; sweet and savory French pastries from Little Tart Bakeshop; artisan sheep’s milk cheese from Many Fold Farm; made-to-order pizza from S & J’s Woodfired Pizza; local boutique charcuterie from Spotted Trotter.
Go: 9:30 a.m.-1:30 p.m. Sundays, April 19-Dec. 20. 600 Cherokee Ave., Atlanta. farmatl.org/markets/grant-park.
The scene: On the Square in historic downtown Marietta, the sprawling community market is open year-round on Saturday mornings and from May through October on Sunday afternoons. Find an “average of 65 vendors each week,” with “heirloom fruits and vegetables, local honey, herbal soaps, whole-grain breads, jelly, jam and preserves.”
Shop for: Raw honey and beeswax candles from Hometown Honey; certified organic produce from Red Earth Organic Farms; handmade fresh pastas and sauces from Storico Fresco Pasta; a wide variety of gourmet sausages from around the world from Sausage World; flavored and gluten-free scones from Seven Sisters Scones.
Go: 9 a.m.-noon Saturdays year-round; noon-3 p.m. Sundays, May-October. North Park Square, 65 Church St., Marietta. mariettasquarefarmersmarket.com.
The scene: A year-round, Saturday morning, all-organic market that stands as a pioneer of the local farmers market movement in metro Atlanta. Look for “local, certified organic vegetables, fruits and mushrooms, locally produced meats raised on 100 percent organic GMO-free feed,” plus artisan foods. Weekly demos feature some of Atlanta’s best chefs.
Shop for: Fermented probiotic foods from Ancient Awakenings; organic coffee from Café Campesino; gourmet meal kits with recipes from local chefs from Garnish and Gather; artisan vegan cashew “cheese” from Pure Abundance; handmade Sicilian-style pasta from Uncle Dom’s; “bean-to-bar” chocolate from Xocolatl Small Batch Chocolate.
Go: 7:30-11:30 a.m. Saturdays (8-11:30 a.m. January-March). 1393 N. Highland Ave., Atlanta. morningsidemarket.com.
The scene: Now in its ninth year, the Saturday morning market is spread through the parking lot of the Cathedral of St. Philip in Peachtree Hills. At this producer-only market where “everything has been grown, raised or made by the seller,” look for 50 weekly vendors and some 35 chef demonstrations scheduled for this season.
Shop for: Handmade grass-fed Greek yogurt from AtlantaFresh Artisan Creamery; small-batch cultured butter from Banner Butter; grass-fed beef and raw milk from Country Gardens Farm; handmade charcuterie and bacon from Pine Street Market; organic fruit, vegetables and flowers from Serenbe Farms; handmade, all-natural sodas from Yalla.
Go: 8:30 a.m.-noon Saturdays, April 11-Sept. 26; 9 a.m.-noon Saturdays, Oct. 3-Dec. 19. 2744 Peachtree Road N.W., Atlanta. peachtreeroadfarmersmarket.com.
The scene: The market is held every Saturday from June through September in front of Snellville City Hall, with “products that come from farms and gardens that, for the most part, are located within a 100-mile radius of Snellville.” Find produce, meat and eggs from local farms, plus craft vendors and booths with homemade goods.
Shop for: Handmade soaps and lotions, lip balm, and candles from AG Soaps and Crystal River Candles; apples, apple cider and fried apple pies from B.J. Reece Orchards; goat cheese and fresh pasta from Blue Moon Creamery; shiitake, oyster and wild mushrooms from My Quality Mushrooms; local honey and eggs from Snellville Honey.
Go: 8:30 a.m.-12:30 p.m. Saturdays, June 6-Sept. 26, in front of Snellville City Hall, 2342 Oak Road, Snellville. www.snellvillefarmersmarket.com.