The winter wonderland of the last few weeks does not exactly conjure up thoughts of the late summer vegetable harvest or early spring flower bouquets one is accustomed to finding at a local farmer’s market. That is what makes the short trip to Athens on any given balmy Saturday morning, year-round, totally worth putting on an extra layer. Many, if not almost all, of the regular spring through fall vendors who normally set up at the market’s main space on East State Street stay through the winter to sell from a dedicated space for the “winter market” inside the Ohio University Mall. Though the market was first started in the early 1970’s in the uptown area of Athens, it settled in its permanent location, the parking lot in front of the mall on East State Street, in 1998.
What makes the Athens Farmers Market stand out the most is being able to count on the same vendors and their diverse assortment of homegrown and homemade products anytime of the year. Occasionally there are booths that are only able to set up for a limited amount of time, due to the seasonal goods they offer, but there is truly no shortage of amazing surprises to take home.
As the name suggests, a farmers market primarily features locally grown food items, usually without any type of chemical pesticides and minimal human interference in the growing process. While that is still an essential building block of the Market on State Street, it is certainly not the only thing found there. Fruits and vegetables are only the beginning of a shopping journey that ranges from sweet treats like mint chocolate flavored fudge, to handmade art to all-natural health and beauty specific products.
On a stroll through the market, stop by Deep Roots Farm to check out the variety of vegetables grown organically and chemical-free by Cale and Melanie Linscott, and treat yourself to a Deep Roots Farm Girl Pie. Deep Roots is one of the many vendors you can find at the market throughout the year. When asked about moving indoors for the winter months, Cale said he liked being outdoors. “I prefer to set up outside, even when there is space inside, because that way I am able to pack up and head out early if I sells out before the end of the selling period.”
A little further along the well-distanced tables, let the smell pull you in to the Avalanche Bakers area. Offering breads, pastries and of course pizza crusts (and more), your nose will find them long before your eyes. Get there early though, the home-baked bread goes pretty quickly.
From there stop and take a break at Dr. May’s Thai Kitchen, pick up a snack to refuel, and continue on to look at the incredible art for sale by members of the Athens Art Guild. Whether it is jewelry, or something bigger, like carved furniture or woven art, there is no shortage of gifts to be found. While enjoying the art, take a moment to swing by and visit with Beth Weingroff, of Sledding Hill Pottery. Beth not only creates some of the most beautiful pottery sold at the market, she is also board president for the Athens Artist Guild. There is something incredible about hearing the story behind the design of something so beautiful and useful at the same time.
On the way back around to find more yummy samples, and one of a kind foods to take home, swing by Spiral Path Therapies and pick up and all natural face cream, or poison ivy salve. A trip to the market would be wasted without a stop at Integration Acres for those one-of-a-kind specialties like ramp noodles, paw paw jam, if its your luckiest of lucky days, a tray full of fresh, ready to devour, paw paws.
Before heading out, one must take a look at the offerings of Shagbark Seed & Mill, and listen to the process their products go through from seed to plate. Shagbark Seed & Mill grows, processes, packages and sells bean and grain based foods that have been refined in their own mill right here in Southeast Ohio.
The last stop on the way back to the car is the Donation Station and the Community Food Initiative Table. This is where it all comes together. Here you will find information regarding sustainable growing, seed samples, recipes and links to services and places to help support the community to solve issues such as food insecurity, and lack of nutrition education in rural areas.
Take a bag, or a basket, or even an empty baby stroller (no judgement here) and fill it up with local treats from any or all of the wonderful local sellers that come out every Saturday year-round, and Wednesdays between April and December to share their good with all of visitors who continue to Shop Local!