Tuesday the 17th dawned wet and gloomy, an unseasonably chilly day for the middle of May. At 8 am, the Armory lawn was deserted, and Front Street was just beginning to come to life. But over the next two hours, tents and tables started to appear and passersby noticed something unusual going on. By ten o’clock, the first Farmers Market on Front Street was open for business and a new feature was added to the landscape of Marietta.
This new farmers market has been a labor of love for many community members, one near and dear to our hearts. The discussion began months ago, in the Marietta Main Street Business Enhancement Committee meetings. We all recognized that having a farmers market downtown would have a positive impact in many ways, but how could we make it happen?
The most obvious solution was to invite the River City Farmers Market to the Armory, offering them the visibility, traffic and promotional support of being located in the heart of downtown. Sadly, arrangements could not be made to provide an indoor space for their vendors who have year-round space in the fairgrounds building. So the next step was to create a farmers market during the week, avoiding a conflict with the older market and allowing those members to join us for another day of sales.
The result? The Farmers Market on Front Street, open every Tuesday, 10-2, through the end of October!
The benefits of an urban farmers market are as bountiful as the produce sold. For the consumer, it means we can buy seasonal food at its best—no forced ripening, no long distance shipping, no sitting in storage for weeks before reaching our tables. We can enjoy the fruits and vegetables freshly picked and perfectly ripe, the way they are meant to be eaten. Not only is the produce fresher and tastier, it’s a lot less likely to be treated with pesticides and chemicals, because small farmers work hard to grow food with minimal processing.
If you are concerned about the environment and sustainability, then shopping at a farmers market should be first on your grocery list. Processed food in grocery stores travels an average of 1,500 miles before you buy it. That’s a lot of fuel, pollution, packaging and trash required to provide foods that we can buy locally. In addition, conventional agriculture (aka mega producers) use a lot more resources and less sustainable methods than small farmers.
And what about the pleasure of eating those foods? At a farmers market, you are more likely to find varieties of vegetables that aren’t available at the big box stores. Heirloom tomatoes, red carrots, green garlic—you can sample new foods and add variety to your menu. Not only can you buy a variety of fresh foods, but you can meet the growers and producers. Learn their processes and ingredients, get tips on storing and preparing, I bet you’ll even go home with some new recipes.
Finally, a huge benefit of an urban farmers market is the effect on the community. We saw firsthand the immediate, positive impact our opening day had on Front Street and beyond. By 9:30, we had 8 vendors preparing for the opening, their spirits refused to be dampened by the light drizzle. The inaugural Market included Fagan’s Family Farms, Fagan’s Farm LLC, Hare & Feather, Stacy’s Farm, Southside Granola Company, Shew’s Meats, WASCO, and the Washington County Health Department. It didn’t take long before cars were pulling up to the curb and visitors were walking to the Armory from all directions.
For Brad Thomas, the Market was a perfect opportunity to introduce his new company, Southside Granola Company. Brad set up his booth with 60 bags of his own granola blends, and by the end of the four hours he had sold all but one bag. For seasoned farmers like the Stacys and the Fagans, Tuesday was another opportunity to expand their customer base and add an extra sales day to their weekly routines. Their booths saw a steady stream of customers—the fresh strawberries nearly flew off the Stacy Farm table, and Fagan’s plants found lots of new homes.
Despite the chilly weather and gloomy skies, over 300 visitors helped to make the first Farmers Market on Front Street a solid success. The support of nearby merchants, local residents and business people who used their lunch hours to patronize the vendors – that show of support proved that the community is ready and excited to help this venture grow and flourish.
If you missed the opening day of the Farmers Market, don’t worry—we’ll be on the Armory lawn, every Tuesday between now and Halloween! Come meet the local growers and hand crafters and enjoy the healthy goodness you’ll find. Each Market will be just a bit different, with future activities planned to promote healthy lifestyles, encourage sustainability and engage with local producers. Instead of dreading a trip to the grocery store with a wobbly cart and artificial lights, enjoy browsing the booths in the fresh air and sunshine. You’ll leave with fresh food, home made goods, and the community feeling of life in a small town.
Are you a grower, producer, baker or maker interested in setting up at the Market? You can find more information here on Marietta Main Street’s website!