Seems to be a trend in urban areas…farmers’ markets are popping up everywhere — in town squares, parking lots, alleys, church yards…with fruits and vegetables, pasta, pastries, artisan breads, quinoa salads, fresh eggs, apple-cured bacon — you can find nearly anything you want if you’re willing to pay premium prices for “local” food.
I love the farmers’ market at the Marietta Square that has all of the above, and occasionally I’m willing to pay the prices to come away with some amazing bacon and fresh fruits and vegetables. But most of those fresh foods have come from at least two hours away, and many from further than that. Some are trucked in from Florida. I prefer to go straight to the source and buy truly local at more reasonable prices.
Farmers throughout rural areas have been offering farmers’ markets for years, selling small portions of their wares right there beside the field. When I go visit my family in Middle Georgia, I come home with lots of tomatoes, squash, bell peppers, onions and cucumbers from Papa Jim’s garden — which is wonderful, because it’s all free and homegrown. Then I also drop by Chase Farm Market and pick up some fresh corn — right across the road from the cornfield. It just doesn’t get any better than that.
And then there are the peaches…Georgia peaches…sweet and juicy, they taste of barefoot summer days. Just outside the town of Montezuma is Brown’s Farmer’s Market, where they sell peaches fresh from the orchard, just as they’ve been doing for the last 30 years. The roadside stand has grown into a nice little market and offers an assortment of summer vegetables and fruits. In a field next to the market, customers can cut to order from a rainbow of beautiful zinnias and sunflowers: reds, golds, pinks, oranges — like an explosion of crayons mixed into a field of green. (They were not open yet, so I don’t have photos but you can see pictures on their website).
Another long-time peach family is Lane Southern Orchards in Fort Valley, Georgia. Lane’s has been selling peaches and pecans more than 100 years.
We stopped there on our way home a couple of weeks ago, and treated ourselves to some of the best peach ice cream I’ve ever had. The peaches were pureed, so there were no chunks of frozen peaches to chew, just melt-in-your-mouth-marvelous ice cream.
The market at Lane’s is large and offers a gift shop, a cafe, fresh fruits and vegetables — lots of peaches — and other gourmet food items, such as special jellies and jams, or apple butter or syrup. There is no artisan bread and no fancy pasta, only things your Grandma might have made.
And right across the road…the peach trees.
The South has always been a land of agriculture, and even though there are fewer farms today than fifty years ago, there are still plenty of opportunities for wholesome, local, fresh food. Bypass the grocery store and go straight to the source — you’ll find friendly people who will say, “How y’all doin’?”
And if you’re lucky, they’ll even say, “How’s your momnthem?” That’s when you know you’re in the right place.
(Photos of Chase Farm Market courtesy of my BFF MaryEllen, who graciously zipped by after work since I forgot to take pictures when I was there. Thanks, girlfriend.)