Frenchtown Farmers Market gives shoppers a fresh choice
By Samantha Joseph
Once each week on the corner of Martin Luther King Jr. Boulevard and Georgia Street a harvest of locally-grown food can be found ripe for the picking.
Shoppers usually have plenty to chose from — kale, onions, grapefruit, potatoes, tomatoes and peppers. Even strawberries were on some of the vendors’ tables this past Saturday when the Frenchtown Farmers Markets celebrated its one-year anniversary at its current location.
Prior to the past year, farmers who hawked their goods at the market’s current location did so near the intersection of Brevard and Old Bainbridge.
For about five years, the Frenchtown Neighborhood Improvement Association has been operating the market in conjunction with the Tallahassee Community Redevelopment Agency. The concept is intended to establish a means to provide food for a healthy lifestyle, organizers say.
Some of the food is grown in community gardens around Tallahassee, but most come from other areas. Cetta Barnhart is one of the driving forces behind the effort to bring fresh food to the market.
Barnhart, one of the many vendors who have been a part of the farmers market since its early years, has taken the push for fresh food a step farther. Through her business, Seed Times Harvest Farms, she’s been working with farmers in Madison and Jefferson counties to help them move their products.
In part, Barnhart said her effort intended to help farmers sell more of their harvest. Often not all of the freshly-grown food make it to consumers, she said.
“I’m kind of that middle woman that goes and get it and bring it to consumers because there is that gap from those larger farmers that love to grow food,” said Barnhart. “That’s just what they do; they just grow food [and] they don’t really do the marketing that they need to get the foods out of the fields.
“What happens is you get a lot of waste because no one knows it’s there. So I’ve been the farm marketer and being that go-between that goes out to the farms and consumer.”
While some of what makes it to the Frenchtown market comes from small fields, many of the out-of-town farmers plant on farms that could be as large as 40 acres. Some farmers start their plants from a seed or sprigs in a greenhouse before planting them in the fields.
Knowing how the food is grown is one reason customers like Chemire Brooks goes back each week.
“I’m a community type person; a community connection person, so the people here do real well with engaging and telling me about the products, the freshness and where it comes from,” said Brooks.
One of the partners and vendors of the Frenchtown Farmers Market for 4 years takes product knowledge to the next level when it comes to crops.
Farmers like Sundiata take knowledge of the crops to the next level. Sundiata, who goes by only a first name, is director of iGrow, an urban agriculture youth empowerment program that teaches young people and college students how to grow food.
iGrow uses organic practices to plant their food. The program at one point used starter plants to grow produce but in an effort to become more cost effective they have transitioned to growing foods like kale, chards and beats from a seedling.
“Not only do we want our people to grow their own food we want them to be more knowledgeable on vegetables and how to maintain a veggie-based lifestyle,” Sundiata said. “One of the keys to that is knowing how to prepare foods. You have so many foods here that people see when they go to grocery stores, but they may shop for the same three or four vegetables every time they go into the grocery stores because they don’t know what to do with all that other stuff.
“People need to learn how to utilize these foods so they can increase the variety of foods that they eat because that’s what’s going to keep you healthy and keep you alive.”
Shoppers like Nubia Lotus have found the information that they get from vendors at the Frenchtown market to be invaluable.
“I get onions, greens, tomatoes, peppers, vegan treats, soaps and hygiene products that’s my favorite because the things from the store have harsh chemicals in it or natural flavors but you really don’t know where it’s coming from,” said Lotus. “You can get directly to the manufacturer (farmers) so you can have your needs and wants addressed.”