June 27, 2003: Conditions seem ideal for metro Atlanta’s
newest farmer’s market: six veteran farmers with diverse products
to sell; a quaint courthouse square surrounded by fine restaurants
and plenty of pedestrians; and a marketing campaign that has generated
media coverage, storefront posters, and its own website.
So why is the organic farming community holding its breath? Previous
attempts to start a market in downtown Decatur have failed. And
even as supercharged Whole Foods Market opens its third store in
the area, Atlanta residents have been slow to change their food
“We’re way behind and I’m not sure why,”
says Fred Conrad, director of the Atlanta Community Food Bank, whose
market produce comes from its Garden For Youth program. “In
the middle of nowhere in upstate New York, community supported subscription
farms are huge. Here, we have 4 million people and we can’t
Indeed, until this spring, only one organic farmers market –
in the nearby upscale Morningside community -- could be found inside
the Atlanta perimeter. And that market took years to establish.
Recently, farmers markets have sprouted up in towns surrounding
Atlanta, such as Dunwoody and Carrolton. But it is in progressive
Decatur, with 18,000 residents just six miles from downtown Atlanta,
where the future of Atlanta's organic farming movement is being
"What makes this market so exciting is that it was completely
initiated by consumers, and with so many families here it just seems
like a natural fit,” says Craig Triplett, executive director
of Georgia Organics. “So the expectations are high, and yet
we know we haven’t done a good enough job educating consumers."
Georgia Organics is forming a partnership with Whole Foods. On
June 14, one of the chain's stores donated 5% of all sales to the
300-member organization. Workshops for gardeners and other consumers
are also planned.
If one ingredient in this recipe for success is missing, it is
the farmers. One can count the number of producers serving the Decatur
and Morningside markets on two hands.
“The market potential for organics in Georgia far exceed
our goals to meet them,” acknowledges Triplett. “Our
biggest challenge now is recruiting and encouraging more organic
farmers to produce the products.”
Organic farmer Skip Glover, who was instrumental in getting the
markets started in Carrolton and Decatur, has had to depend on outside
grants and partnerships with land conservation groups to get farmers
organized and marketed.
“The support hasn't come from the state, so we've had to
do it on our own. We get calls from all over Georgia asking if people
in our community can come talk about how they can get started. But
the old plantation method or syndrome still persists."
Georgia Organics' long-term goal is to have a locally grown farmers
market within 30 minutes of everyone in the state. Organic cook
Renu Reed, who shops at Decatur and Morningside each week, has a
bigger vision. “It want them to be every other block, like
schools,” she says.
For now, simply establishing a second market inside the perimeter
seems like a big accomplishment.