If you love to cook using local or seasonal ingredients or need to pick up a handmade gift (hint: Father’s Day is June 21) a stop at the Athens Farmers Market is in order. The market runs year-round and has over 90 vendors registered, which gives you lots of options outside of the traditional big box stores, grocery or otherwise.
On a typical Saturday morning you will find booths crowded with people looking over the wares, musicians playing relaxing tunes, friends talking to others and a community atmosphere. The market is so well attended that popular vendors often sell out quickly on Saturday mornings, so get there early if you want to purchase from your favorite vendor. The market has received positive press over the years and has even been rated one of the top farmers markets in the nation by Audubon Magazine.
Colin Cottrell, a recent Ohio University graduate and now an Athens resident, has found his love of cooking with seasonal and locally sourced ingredients thanks to the Athens Farmers Market.
My friends and I love to cook so we go to the market to find what is seasonal and build our recipes for the week around that.
“When I moved off campus a few years ago and started to live in places with larger kitchens I became interested in cooking more,” said Cottrell. “Now as a resident I like using the local ingredients that come from this area. My friends and I love to cook so we go to the market to find what is seasonal and build our recipes for the week around that. What we can’t get from the market we add in the rest from the grocery store.”
The market specializes in a variety of goods including those that make your mouth water like artisan breads, pies, fresh herbs, organic eggs, meat products and tarts just to name a few. You can also expect a few unique finds from vendors including gourmet dog biscuits, goat milk soap, dried flower wreaths, compost exchange, wool products, live freshwater shrimp (mid-October), alpaca fiber and more!
During certain product seasons, some vendors take advantage and produce limited quantities of products around a seasonal ingredient. Take the pawpaw, sometimes known as the Poor Man’s Banana, which is America’s largest native tree fruit and grows mostly in eastern North America. Pawpaw fruit usually becomes ripe between mid-August into October. This coincides nicely with the Pawpaw Festival in Athens, which is held in September. Market vendors produce pawpaw jelly, jam, pie and other pawpaw creations to celebrate this seasonal ingredient.
“I always make it a point to get pawpaw bread every year [at the market] because I’m not talented enough to make that,” laughs Cottrell.
The Athens Farmers Market holds three different markets at their 1000 E. State St. location in Athens. The year-round Saturday Markets run from 9 a.m. to noon and is the largest market with majority of vendors in attendance. In the summer all of the vendors set up outside in the parking lot rain or shine, and during the winter months vendors move to the indoor mall at the same location. If you need a few items for your cooking mid-week the Wednesday Markets run from 9 a.m. to noon from April through December and the Thursday Markets run from 4 p.m. to 7 p.m. May through September.
During the school semester the market comes to the Ohio University campus with the OHIO Farmer’s Market. This past year marked the fifth year the market visited the Athens campus, bringing locally made foods and goods to the student population.
“Having the Athens Farmers Market come to campus is a great way for students to have access to food that is locally grown and organic that isn’t as processed as some of the options are in the on-campus food locations,” said Abby Paige a senior communication studies major at Ohio University. “I think it’s great that they take the trip out of it for the students who might not have a car on campus, they can stop on their way to or from class across campus. It’s a really positive way for the community to interact with the University students.”
There is no denying it, the Athens Farmers Market is a gem in the Mid-Ohio Valley, and only being a short 55-minute drive from Marietta or 45-minute drive from Parkersburg, it’s an easy way to spend your Saturday morning. Plus, think how delicious your next meal could be after your visit to the market.