KSU farmers market latest addition to growing ranks for locally grown foods

By David Pendered

The student-run summer farmers market has reopened at Kennesaw State University, marking another milestone in the expansion of shops for locally grown food.

Kennesaw State University has reopened its farmers market for the summer. It's on Tuesday from 4 p.m. to 7 p.m. Credit: kennesawstatedining.com

Kennesaw State University has reopened its farmers market for the summer. It’s on Thursdays from 4 p.m. to 7 p.m. Credit: kennesawstatedining.com

The KSU market is open Thursdays from 4 p.m. to 7 p.m., placing it among the markets that aren’t competing in saturated Saturday morning time slot. For example, the ELF Market, East Lake Farmers Market, is open Tuesday evenings.

The size of these local markets is in stark contrast to Your DeKalb Farmers Market, generally viewed as the granddaddy of them all and preparing for a massive expansion. And the little farmers markets represent the growing appetite for locally grown food products sold in a neighborhood setting.

The KSU market is an outreach of the university’s increased attention to the movement toward locally grown products and sustainable practices.

The market is operated by the university’s dining program and a group of students focused on urban gardening and responsible farming methods. The university operates a farm-to-campus food program that operates from 42 acres that focus on non-GMO varieties aided by natural methods of cultivation, according to the school.

The school also has created a bachelor’s degree in Culinary Sustainability and Hospitality. It focuses on ways the food service industry can improve profits by implementing sustainable practices.

The DeKalb farmers market started in a storefront east of Decatur, moved to a warehouse it built, and this spring started an expansion that is slated add 1.2 million square feet of warehouse and industrial space, plus 2,637 parking spaces, according to a development plan approved by the Atlanta Regional Commission.

The existing retail space is 142,475 square feet and is to be converted into a warehouse, according to the development of regional impact.

Lettuce grows at Dillwood Farms, near Snellville, for future sales at local farmers markets. File/Credit: Donita Pendered

Lettuce grows at Dillwood Farms, near Snellville, for future sales at local farmers markets. File/Credit: Donita Pendered

The market plans a four-phase expansion plan, with the first phase opening in 2015 and total completion of the project by 2023, according to the report:

  • Phase 1 will consist of 361,972 square feet of warehouse and 186,703 square feet of retail. The existing retail area of 142,475 square feet will be converted to warehouse and wholesale area after the completion of Phase 1;
  • Phase 2 will consist of 223,530 square feet of warehouse;
  • Phase 3 will consist of 419,875 square feet of warehouse and 89,065 square feet of retail;
  • Phase 4 will consist of 98,774 square feet of warehouse and 53,186 square feet of retail;
  • The final phase, also identified in the DRI as Phase 4, will consist of 223,530 square feet of warehouse.

At its facility in Forest Park, the Atlanta State Farmers Market is also focusing on growing its retail business and on June 28 will host its second Georgia Grown Farmers Showcase event.

Georgia grown produce arrives in great quantities at the Atlanta State Farmers Market, located in Forest Park. Credit: jpluta/forestparkgeorgia.blogspot.com

Georgia grown produce arrives in great quantities at the Atlanta State Farmers Market, located in Forest Park. Credit: jpluta/forestparkgeorgia.blogspot.com

The event is one of four hosted at state markets around the state. It’s to feature a tremendous range of locally grown seasonal fruits and vegetables, and other food, plants and Georgia-produced products.

As Ben Smith noted in his recent SaportaReport story on farmers markets, the number of markets has skyrocketed in the past 20 years. The greatest growth phase started during the great recession and in just one year, 2010, 1,043 farmers markets were added to the list maintained by the U.S. Department of Agriculture. The new markets added that year represent more than a tenth of all the markets now operating.

The story observed that surveys have shown farmers markets are popular for reasons including: “the relaxed atmosphere of the casual outdoor shopping experience, the chance to meet friends and neighbors, the freshness and quality of the food and the opportunity to support local farmers, among others.”

David Pendered, Managing Editor, is an Atlanta journalist with more than 30 years experience reporting on the region’s urban affairs, from Atlanta City Hall to the state Capitol. Since 2008, he has written for print and digital publications, and advised on media and governmental affairs. Previously, he spent more than 26 years with The Atlanta Journal-Constitution and won awards for his coverage of schools and urban development. David graduated from North Carolina State University and was a Western Knight Center Fellow. David was born in Pennsylvania, grew up in North Carolina and is married to a fifth-generation Atlantan.

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