The average last frost date for Athens falls this week, but you never know when a weird cold front will blow through, wreaking havoc on the little plants. It may be that tonight and tomorrow will be the last cold nights for the year, but ten days from now we might have to crank up the heaters again. If you’ve put out summer plants like tomatoes, peppers, squash, and eggplants, keep an eye out on the forecast for the next week or two, just in case you need protect them. The average last frost date for some of our growers won’t come for another month, further up in the mountains, but that just means more variety for our market.
It’s really never too late to put something in the ground, and it’s prime planting season now. I was one of the founding farmers of Athens Locally Grown, back in 2002, but these days I’m living back in the city of Athens and lucky enough to have a rental house with a few raised beds right outside my back door. Springtime weather makes me want to throw seeds in every bit of dirt I can find, wherever I find it, so maybe this week I’ll also make some more native wildflower seed bombs for use in bare patches I run across while walking through the neighborhood.
If you’ve been preparing your garden, or just thinking about starting one, be sure to check out all of the live plants offered by our growers through Athens Locally Grown and the other area farmers markets. Sure, you could run off to Home Depot and buy some mass-produced seedlings soaked in synthetic fertilizers and sprayed with fumigants, but you can also get hardy seedlings grown by the same people cultivating plants for their own vegetable beds, free of synthetic chemicals, for the same prices.
Why am I encouraging you to grow your own food when I’m in the business of helping growers sell you food they grow? For one, studies have shown (and my own experience confirms) that people who grow their own gardens tend to actually increase their yearly purchases at their local farmers markets. Once they take an interest their food so strong that they begin growing what they can, they find that they can rely even more on their local growers for things that they used to get at the grocery store. And besides, my goal for writing the software behind our market was for every community to become less reliant on food grown elsewhere and shipped in from long distances. And you having your own little patch of garden in your yard is a big step in helping Athens do just that.
And a repeat from last week because I could still use some more folks: We’ve got a consistent crew of volunteers every Thursday filling your orders, but sometimes one of them catches a bug or needs a week off. When that happens, I start calling the backup crew to take their place. I’d love to add a few more people to that list, so if you’re generally free on Thursdays from 3pm to 8pm and would like to earn an occasional market credit in exchange for filling orders for fellow customers, please let me know! We’ll get you all trained up (this Thursday, if you’re able), and then you’ll be on my go-to list when one of the regulars needs a week away.
Thank you so much for your support of Athens Locally Grown, all of our growers, local food, and our rights to eat it. You all are part of what makes Athens such a great area in which to live. We’ll see you on Thursday at Ben’s Bikes at the corner of Pope and Broad Streets from 4:30 to 8pm!
Other Area Farmers Markets
The many other area markets are starting to return! The Athens Farmers Market is open on Saturdays at Bishop Park, and Wednesday evenings downtown at Creature Comforts. You can catch the news on their website. The West Broad Farmers Market is closed for the season, and you can watch for their return here: http://www.athenslandtrust.org/west-broad-farmers-market/. The Comer Farmers’ Market is open on Saturday mornings from 9am to noon. Check www.facebook.com/comerfm for more information. Washington, GA also has a lovely little Saturday market, running on winter hours now on Saturdays from 1-4pm. Folks to the east can check out the Hartwell Farmers Market, which starts bright and early on Saturday morning from 7am to noon, and Tuesday afternoons from noon to 4pm. You can learn all about them here: www.washingtonfarmersmkt.com. If you know of any other area markets operating, please let me know.
All of these other markets are separate from ALG (including the Athens Farmers Market) but many growers sell at multiple markets. Please support your local farmers and food producers, where ever you’re able to do so!