The COVID-19 pandemic sidelined many traditional farmers markets. But now a new effort is being launched to help Georgia growers safely sell their produce.
A Georgia Grown To-Go pop-up market will be held from 10 a.m. to 2 p.m. Saturday, May 23 at Al Bishop Park at 1082 Al Bishop Drive in Marietta. Customers can drive through the market, place their orders and have boxes of produce placed in their trunks. Market organizers will accept cash, credit and debit cards as forms of payment.
Boxes of assorted vegetables, Vidalia onions, sweet corn, Georgia peaches, chicken and green beans are also on sale at a reduced rate until noon Thursday at georgiagrowntogo.com.
Gary Black, commissioner for the Georgia Department of Agriculture, said Saturday’s event could have as many as 10 stations featuring farmers from around the state. He also said he expects thousands to take advantage of this farmers market operating amid the pandemic. Initial orders of assorted vegetable boxes have already topped 3,000, he said.
Georgia farmers have an abundance of supply due to disruptions in food service and school operations, so the market gives them a chance to sell surplus produce, Black said.
“The supply is ample,” he said. “Georgia-grown produce is grown by Georgia-grown farmers, and I believe Georgia-grown consumers see that produce (as something) they desperately want.”
About half of the crop produced by farmers is usually sold to restaurants and school cafeterias, many of which have closed due to the pandemic. The USDA Farmers to Families Food Box Program will help with the surplus by purchasing produce and meat products from growers to package and distribute to food banks and other non-profits through mid-June.
The idea for a pop-up market stems from a phone call made by Marietta Mayor Steve “Thunder” Tumlin to Black. Tumlin, who wanted Black’s opinion on how the city could safely reopen its Marietta Square Farmers Market, said the agriculture commissioner told him “we’re not thinking big enough.” Tumlin said he sent emails to about three dozen people in Cobb, asking if they would be willing to help organize a large-scale market.
“This idea has morphed in other locations,” he said.
Black said future pop-up markets are planned for DeKalb and Gwinnett counties and Sandy Springs. He also said his staff are working with Clayton County officials on possibly holding a pop-up market.
Customers will also have a chance to purchase produce boxes to donate to local charities. Several Cobb charities will receive boxes through the Cobb Community Foundation, including Sweetwater Mission, Family Life Restoration Center, MUST Ministries, Reflections of Trinity and Noonday Baptist Association’s Storehouse Ministries.
The agriculture commissioner said the market is a way introduce to customers the Georgia farmers who grow the produce they rely on.
“This is a good opportunity to make sure Georgia-grown produce goes into Georgia residents’ hands,” he said.
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