Every Wednesday beginning in April and lasting through September, the Mulberry Street Farmer’s market is open from 4 p.m. until 7 p.m. in downtown Macon. April 4 marked the grand re-opening of the market, and it was also the market’s first anniversary.
Several tents were set up in Mulberry Street Park between First and Second Streets, where the local farmers sold their goods, and live music played as people shopped for fresh produce.
Chris Kiker manned the check-out tent. The Mulberry Street Farmer’s Market began as a partnership between the city of Macon, Community Health Works and Macon Roots, Kiker explained. Last September, Community Health Works (CHW) took over.
CHW partners with Wholesome Wave Georgia, an organization that works to increase access to locally grown food in Georgia. CHW runs the credit/debit Electronic Benefit Transfer (EBT) machine, and Wholesome Wave doubles EBT dollars using private funds so those with food stamps can afford fresh, local food.
“A year later we’re [CHW] running the market fiscally and also we manage the market. … It’s been really successful. We’re here to promote local, small to medium-size farmers and what they’re doing and to promote health and wellness and fresh food for everybody,” said Kiker.
During the summer, Kiker said the market has around 20 vendors, 10 of which are farmers. The market also features dairy and meat producers. Kiker said, “Really anything, your main staples that you would need from a grocery store you can buy at the market.”
There was a need for a farmer’s market from the local farmers’ point of view, said Kiker, as a lot of the farmers are too small to sell products to grocery stores. Farmer’s markets benefit the economy by keeping money local, “and it’s great for the city as well,” said Kiker. “It creates a sense of community.”
The farmer’s market also brings attention to downtown, and is beneficial not only at a consumer level but also at the city and government levels. Last year, the market was so successful that it lasted through the winter. Kiker said the market averages about 300 customers weekly with roughly three to four thousand dollars in sales.
Naomi Davis with Davis Farms came to the market from Roberta, Ga. Davis sold lettuces, herbs and plants at the farmer’s market. This is the second year Davis Farms has participated in the Mulberry Street Market, and it is currently the only farmer’s market they participate in.
“This is my theory for 2012: If you want to be on a diet, forget about Atkins, forget about low carbs. Come to the market and eat seasonal food. You’ll feel better and you will lose weight,” said Davis.
Produce was not the only item available at the market. Alyssa Romero was selling baked goods, jellies and jams along with greens, herbs and flowers. Romero’s farm is in Milledgeville, Ga. and she participates in a market in Milledgeville along with the Mulberry Street Market. Romero said. “I think it’s a really good program, and I like what they do with the food stamps a lot, too.”
Leland Walker with Roasted Cafe and Lounge was also at the market selling iced coffee and iced hibiscus tea. Walker said they usually sell whole-bean coffee and loose-leaf tea, as well.
Roasted roasts their organic coffee beans themselves. “We do what they call fair trade with our beans. They pick it, and then they send to us, and then we roast it at a location 30 minutes north,” said Walker.
Roasted participated in the winter portion of the Mulberry Street Market, and is now moving forward with the summer portion along with the other vendors.