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Clarkston Farmers Market: A Home-Grown Food Hub in Clarkston

By: Grant Taylor

I would have driven past the Clarkston Farmers Market (CFM) if it weren’t for the Mercier Orchards banner advertising “APPLES.”

It was raining just after noon on Sunday, and up and down Indian Creek Dr., churches were letting out. Mothers in hijabs carried black umbrellas above their strollers and chatted in spite of the drizzle.

I sat in my car in the parking lot of the Clarkston Community Center, waiting for the crowds to come and the rain to stop. People were walking past, but few seemed to be stopping. I got out and asked Nancy Larson why that might be.

Larson, the Marketing and Outreach intern for CFM said that business was better earlier in the summer when a vendor arrived with peaches.

Now, she said, many people stop for apples, but with a limited number of produce vendors, the market is not a “one stop shop” for customers who prefer to get their groceries at local markets instead of big box stores.

Also, local residents, who are largely immigrant families, tend to have their own networks of established food sources.

Larson and Market Manager Adelaide Taylor agreed that nearby residents might not see a need for such a market in their communi- ties and have considered moving the market to a different location in a nearby park.

Programs aimed at making fresh food available to those in need have not been the boon they were expected to be either.

EBT benefits are worth double at the market, for instance, but I did not see anyone using EBT cards for their purchases.

Larson said it was not common for people to pay in that way.

Chad Watson of Mercier Orchards, a large family owned operation based out of Blue Ridge, Georgia, explained the difficult position vendors find themselves in when attendance drops.

“We want to be here, but if we’re not making our numbers, we have to consider our options,” he told me.

That said, Mercier Orchards seemed to be doing the most business of any vendor on site.

He cited the proximity of the sprawling DeKalb Farmers Market as a major challenge, as well as an over saturation of small markets in the DeKalb area in general.

Still, he says he believes in CFM’s mission and would love to see it thrive.

Admittedly, many of the elements necessary for a thriving farmers market were there. Hibo Hassan, who sells East African style samosas for a dollar, has been featured in the Atlanta Journal Constitution’s restaurant blog for her homemade wares, which are made from ingredients she grows herself.

When I arrived an hour after the market opened, she had already sold out.

There was also a woman selling handmade Bhutani jewelry, which was beautiful even if it wasn’t selling as well as she hoped.

Pop & Pound, operated by Mar- cus and Rossie Williams from Lithonia, offered mini pound cakes, which other vendors were eating under their tents as they watched the sky.

Bigger vendors like King of Pops and Heavenly Breads were not in attendance.Maybe it was just the rain keeping everyone away. Maybe it’s just been a tough season for the market. In any case, it seems good intentions are not enough to make up for a lack of demand.

But, if you are in the area next Sunday, or any Sunday this month, stop by and see what they have to offer.

Located in the parking lot of the Clarkston Community Center at 3701 College Avenue, just off N. Indian Creek, the market will run until Nov. 2.

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