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Local farmers markets almost ready to show off fresh produce
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A cabbage grows from the ground at Jubilee Farm on Tuesday, March 26, 2019. As temperatures begin to rise farmers markets are starting to open for the season. - photo by Austin Steele

North Georgia is shaking off its winter chill, and that means it’s almost time to get back out with those reusable canvas bags and shop for locally grown vegetables and fruits.

Andrew Linker, market manager of Northeast Georgia Locally Grown and owner of Humble Vine Farm, is happy to see the weather beginning to clear up as spring has officially begun. He said with the cold weather, it’s the perfect time to look for something sweet in unexpected places.

“This is the time to get the items that increase in sweetness,” said Linker, who works on the his quarter-acre farm in Cleveland. “These cold nights — we’ll probably still get a few more cold nights — what that means is the plant will increase their sugars. So things like beets, turnips and even some lettuce and carrots are all a good time to get those right now while they’re in peak flavor.”

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Andrew Linker distributes produce at the Northeast Georgia History Center, where Northeast Georgia Locally Grown sets up shop every Wednesday. The online farmers market helps connect small-scale farmers to customers through the group's web-based hub. - photo by Scott Rogers

Even though last year’s rain caused problems for farmers who weren’t able to plant when they wanted and had trouble keeping pests away because of the humid summer air, Linker said they persisted.

“From what I’ve heard, last year was a pretty hard year for vegetable farmers,” Linker said.

Even so, farmers will have vegetables ready for sale at upcoming farmers markets in the area.

Northeast Georgia Locally Grown is a year-round online farmers market, so guests can order what they want and pick it up.

Flowery Branch Farmers Market

When: 10 a.m. to 1 p.m. Friday, April 6

Where: 5305 Railroad Ave., Flowery Branch

More info: Online

Braselton Farmers Market

When: 4 to 7 p.m. Friday, April 19

Where: 9924 Davis St., Braselton

More info: Online

Hall County Farmers Market

When: 2:30 to 6:30 p.m. Tuesdays, starting May 7; 8 a.m. to noon Saturdays, starting May 11

Where: 734 E. Crescent Drive, Gainesville

More info: Online

Northeast Georgia Locally Grown

What: Year-round online farmers market

When: Order online Fridays through Mondays, pick up Wednesdays

Where: 322 Academy St. NE, Gainesville

More info: Online

Gainesville Farmers Market

When: 2:30 to 6:30 Fridays, starting May 24

Where: Downtown Gainesville square

More info: Online

But if you’re wanting to get your hands on the produce before you buy it, or you just like browsing in person, Flowery Branch’s next farmers market will be April 6 and Braselton’s next farmers market is April 19. The Gainesville market comes back Fridays starting May 24 while the Hall County Farmers Market returns Tuesdays and Saturdays starting May 7.

Jay Parsons, secretary with the Hall County Farmers Market said they had a parking problem last year with so many people coming to the market. It’s a good problem to have and one he hopes to see again this year — within reason.

“We have a number of local people that are regulars and really help the market keep going,” said Parsons, who’s also a vendor at the market, selling honey. “We have vendors that have been around a while. And it’s rooted right here in the county and it has quite a history.”

The farmers market, in its 48th year, will have some special events this season to celebrate. Parsons is hoping to see the crowd continue in its diversity with young and old coming out to enjoy the events and see all the produce the market has to offer.

“There seems to be a newer crowd coming through,” Parsons said. “Some of the younger crowd is being more health conscious and looking for locally grown foods. They’re aware of what goes on with a lot of foods out there, plus there are a lot of dietary things going on.”

Linker said anyone who visits a farmers market in the next few weeks can expect to see things like spinach, cabbage, lettuce, arugula, beets, onions, radishes, fennel, broccoli and different kinds of herbs. Although Parsons said everyone is looking for tomatoes right away, both he and Linker said they would have to wait as tomatoes come a little later.

The popularity of farmers markets is apparent because of the freshness guests continue find. That’s the reason Linker said farmers markets continue to grow.

“Everyone is looking for that ideal taste,” Linker said. “What that means is the plant was grown in the natural climate and it's harvested at peak sweetness, which means it’s allowed to ripen on the vine, which is why farmers markets are so valuable. Typically it’s traveling a lot less, so you’re able to get really fragile produce you may not see in the stores.”

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Shoppers browse booths filled with homegrown produce Tuesday, June 19, 2018, at the Hall County Farmers Market. - photo by David Barnes
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