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Garden fresh, from plot to plate

Northeast Georgia Locally Grown online farmers market is ready to open for 2012

POSTED: April 11, 2012 12:30 a.m.
/For The Times

Locally Grown Market volunteers, from left Ching-Yu Huang, Jean Holmes and Teri Parker, help customer Carolyn Gaik pick up her order last year at the Grace Calvary church office in Clarkesville.

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What do they want? Fresh foods. When do they want it? Now.

There may not be any cheerleaders on the sidelines rooting for Team Fresh, but the movement is gaining support as more folks are choosing fresh — and locally grown — foods.

To help make the process easier, the Northeast Georgia Locally Grown Market allows consumers to "hand pick" their goods online, then pick them up in person at either Grace Calvary Church in Clarkesville or Mill Gap Farm in Tiger.

"This system really works well in a rural community because it consolidates a lot of food from a lot of different farms in one location," said Justin Ellis, co-manager of the Clarkesville pick-up site.

"For farmers, it removes all of the risk typically involved in going to market because they know exactly what they’ve sold in advance.

"For customers, they can find a broad (supply) of foods from numerous farms and they know the items are super fresh and from farms that are practicing sustainable agriculture."

To place an order, buyers visit the market’s website, select the goods they’d like and their order is transmitted directly to the farmers and other providers.

Available goods are posted on Sunday evenings and customers have until 9 p.m. Mondays to place their orders. Orders are delivered to the designated pickup site for customers Wednesday afternoons.

Shoppers are allowed to try out the market three times before they are charged a $15 annual membership fee.

The Locally Grown online farmers market concept was launched in Athens nearly a decade ago. Since then, it has grown to include markets all over the country and as far away as Canada and the U.S. Virgin Islands.

The Northeast Georgia market opened in 2010 and has grown to include more than 30 suppliers. In the online shop, you can find items like cherry belle radishes from Burton Mountain Farms in Rabun County and even loofah sponges from Leslie’s Garden Dream in Toccoa.

There are baked goods, herbs, milled products and for the first time this year, fresh cow’s milk, cream and butter.

Mountain Fresh Creamery, a family owned and operated dairy in Clermont, will be supplying the milk and other dairy products.

"This is a win-win relationship for all involved," said Scott Glover, who co-owns Mountain Fresh with his wife Jennifer Glover.

"It keeps local dollars in the community, and it also provides fresh, all-natural foods to our community."

To ensure that consumers are getting the healthiest products possible, Northeast Georgia market organizers require that participants meet certain specifications before they’re allowed to sell.

Growers can’t use synthetic fertilizers or pesticides and the farms must be within 80 miles of Clarkesville or Clayton.

Producers of processed foods must use at least 60 percent local ingredients and include a label with ingredients.

The program is sponsored by the Soque River Watershed Association, a nonprofit in Clarkesville. The group’s market goal is to "increase the production and consumption of sustainably produced goods and to increase the public’s awareness of environmental and economic benefits associated with local, land-based businesses."

The market is managed by Chuck Mashburn of Mill Gap Farm in Tiger.

If online shopping isn’t your thing, you still have the opportunity to get your hands on local goods. The Spout Springs Farmers Market reopens for the season on April 19. It will be open at the Spout Springs Library — 6488 Spout Springs Road in Flowery Branch — from 4-7 p.m. on Thursdays through the end of October.

The Historic Downtown Gainesville Farmers Market, which is open Fridays on the downtown square, will begin its season June 1.


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