Atlanta Farmers Market Offers Goodies for Your Holidays


Today we start a new series on Atlanta Treasures – places you might miss if you aren’t a local. First, we’ll explore the Atlanta Farmers Market (actually the Georgia State Farmers Market) where you can find wonderful fresh offerings throughout the year, but if you’re visiting now, you might enjoy their special goodies for the holidays.

Whether you’re following your favorite team on the playoff trail, or you’re just passing through Atlanta on your way somewhere else, be sure to stop by the State Farmers Market, located in Forest Park, just south of Atlanta. It’s near the intersection of I-85 and I-75, two exits south of I-285. They have retail as well as wholesale vendors, and the selection is huge. For the best deals, bring cash, and prepare to haggle. Most vendors don’t accept credit cards.

As you enter the market, you’ll see the gigantic wholesale buildings to the right, where vendors and distributors ship fresh foods from the Southeast all over the country and the world. Unless wholesale is genuinely what you want, you need to turn left toward the sheds area. Some of these vendors also offer wholesale, but almost all sell smaller quantities to retail buyers.

Stop at the Welcome Center if it’s open, and get a map to show you where specific vendors are located. Or if you’d rather just drive around and get your bearings, that’s a great way to see it all. You drive up and down between the stalls, and if you see something you like, just pull in. Do obey the one-way streets, though, because the Market Police are vigilant!

At 150 acres, it’s one of the largest farmers’ markets in the U.S., and it’s technically open 24 hours a day, 7 days a week (except for Christmas Day). But if you want the best selection, it’s wise to stop here in the early morning while there’s still a good selection. In the shed area, farmers bring in their wares around 3 or 4am and stay till about noon or so. Some have full-time spaces with longer hours.

While local farmers’ markets are popping up all over the city, they usually offer a limited selection of locally grown produce, and during the winter months, availability dwindles causing many to close for the season.

The State Farmers Market does have sheds specifically for Georgia farmers, and they highlight the Georgia Grown emphasis on fresh locally produced foods. But during those months when production is down for local farmers, there’s still an amazing array of fresh fruits and vegetables from around the world as well as prepared foods including jams and jellies, relishes, pickles, and just about anything else your grandmother “put up.”

December means citrus fruits from Florida and Christmas trees, hand-made garlands and wreaths. Whether you want a 20-foot-fresh-cut spruce or a tree you can plant in the yard after the holidays, you’re sure to find the perfect one. And you can stock up on winter greens, nuts, apples, sugar cane, honey – you name it, and you can probably find it here.

There’s a large Latino representation, with everything from kitchen utensils to piñatas, in addition to all the fresh goodies. And if you’re looking for baskets, be sure to check out Mathews Hamper House, located in the back, where you’ll also find everything needed to make your own fruit basket gifts – ribbon, paper, cello wrap.  If you’re thinking about those gift baskets, the Market Grocery is a great place to buy bulk candy and just about anything else you’d find at a grocery store.

At the garden center, you’ll find representatives from a number of nurseries, offering everything from flats of annuals and perineals to potted plants and herbs, shrubs, trees, fresh cut flowers, pots, garden fountains and other decorative items, and even sod and mulch. It’s a great place to shop for unique gifts.

If you’re tired and hungry after all your treasure hunting, stop in at the Oakwood Café near the entrance – fresh veggies and down-home meats – or the Don Burrito Grill near the garden center for fabulous fresh Mexican. Both are quite reasonably priced and service is friendly. Sometimes there’s a wait at lunchtime!

Next: Christmas Markets in Germany

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