Explore Ponce City Market Farmers Market and 4 other hip neighborhood markets

No doubt seasonal farmers markets remain the best places to buy the freshest fruits and vegetables, and help support local growers.

But lately, many weekly markets have become a neighborhood hub for all sorts of other activities, too.

This  story originally appeared in the July/August issue of Living Intown Magazine.

In these lively, laid-back outdoor spaces, where art and live music mingle with commerce, you’ll find local vendors selling meat, cheese, baked goods, and even burritos and burgers. Chef demos using seasonal produce, wellness programs for adults, and fun stuff for kids offer more opportunities to learn and socialize. And each market seems to embrace a distinctive sense of its surrounding community.

On Thursday evenings, the East Atlanta Village Farmers Market stretches through an alleyway off Flat Shoals Road and into a grassy park with an edible garden, which can provide a staging ground for yoga classes, impromptu acoustic guitar jams and more.

Among the colorful bazaar of tents, you might choose foraged vegetables and wild edible plants from Crack in the Sidewalk Farmlet, organic sourdough bread and Mexican sweets from La Calavera Bakery, or grass-fed beef and pastured poultry from White Oak Pastures.

From 4:30 to 7:30 p.m. every week, educational chef Carolynn Ladd of A Date With Figs can be found at a booth near the front of the market, where she cooks up new recipes with what’s in season.

“I think being there every week adds consistency to the program,” Ladd says. “People get to know my face, and they get a little more comfortable with asking questions. But what I’m really there to do is pull things from the vendors and create a dish from what’s there. I give out samples, and I make the recipe available on the website. In the end, it all supports eating seasonally and supports our farmers.”

East Atlanta Village is part of Community Farmers Markets (CFM), an Atlanta organization that also runs markets in Decatur and Grant Park, at Ponce City Market and the Westside Provisions District, and pop-up markets at the West End MARTA Station and other MARTA locations.

“We really believe that whole is greater than the sum of its parts, in the sense that the farmers market really is a wonderful platform for building community,” says Katie Hayes, the founding executive director of CFM.

“In many cases, they have essentially become the town square of the neighborhood. East Atlanta is a great example of that. In Grant Park, the market was the project that really helped revitalize the park and bring people back. We have a community booth at every market, we have a chef booth at every market, and we always have some sort of kids activity that relates to food.”

Ponce City Farmers Market on the BeltLine is arguably the most buzzed about CFM location. The partially covered space dubbed "the Shed" is accessible from both Ponce City Market and from pedestrian and bike paths along the BeltLine. And along with urban farmers and artisanal food makers, it hosts a regular schedule of pop-up cooking demos featuring well-known Atlanta chefs.

When the farmers market opened for the first time in May, Kevin Ouzts of The Cockentrice in nearby Krog Street Market was one the first chefs at the demo table, gathering a hungry crowd around him as he seared duck breasts and sautéed kohlrabi and green onions to make duck tostadas.

“You can’t get anything fresher than going to the farmers market and picking stuff out,” Outzs says. “But for me, I just think it’s a great opportunity to show people how to put it all together. Going to the market should be fun, and it should be a learning opportunity. Cooking is what I do, and as a chef, one of the best things in the world for me is to be able to touch people.”

Insider tip

Community Farmers Markets have information booths where you can stop by to find out what’s going on each week, grab recipes and get reward cards for new shoppers.

East Atlanta Village Farmers Market. A seasonal evening market showcasing an edible learning garden, it has a mission to "strengthen the local economy and encourage healthy lifestyles" and offers Georgia produce, meat, dairy, artisanal goods and weekly cooking demos.4-8 p.m. Thursdays, March 31-Dec. 22. 561 Flat Shoals Ave. farmeav.com

Grant Park Farmers Market. This seasonal morning market opened in May 2011 in Atlanta's oldest city park as a local food hub and attracts thousands of weekly shoppers. Beyond produce, artisanal goods and chef demos, look for take-away food for a picnic in the park.9:30 a.m.-1:30 p.m. Sundays, April 3-Dec.18. 600 Cherokee Ave. cfmatl.org/grantpark

Morningside Farmers Market. Since 1995, the year-round morning gathering pioneered the local farmers market movement in metro Atlanta. Billed as "the first and only farmers market in Atlanta that requires all produce to be certified organic," it includes demos with the city's best chefs. 8:30-11:30 a.m. Saturdays year round. 1393 N. Highland Ave. morningsidemarket.com

Peachtree Road Farmers Market. Everything has been grown, raised or made by the seller at these seasonal morning and evening markets in the parking lot of the Cathedral of St. Philip in Peachtree Hills. More than 35 chef demos are scheduled this season. 4:30- 8 p.m. Wednesdays, April 13-Oct. 26; 8:30 a.m.-noon Saturdays, April 2-Dec. 17. 2744 Peachtree Road. peachtreeroadfarmersmarket.com

Ponce City Farmers Market on the Beltline. A hip, new seasonal evening market at "the Shed" that's accessible from Ponce City Market and the BeltLine. It hosts urban farmers, artisanal food makers and pop-up chefs. 4-8 p.m. Tuesdays, May 3-Dec. 20. 675 Ponce de Leon Ave. cfmatl.org/pcfmbeltline