The new crop: Farmers markets not just for fruits, veggies anymore

Photo by Corinne Nicholson

Photo by Corinne Nicholson

SNELLVILLE -- The name "farmers market" is perhaps becoming a misnomer for the annual outdoor summer markets where vendors peddle their wares.

While fresh produce -- primarily fruits and vegetables -- is still the staple, vendors have diversified, selling anything from handmade soaps to homemade dog treats.

A stroll through the tents scattered across a grassy area near Snellville's City Hall on Saturday revealed vendors selling locally harvested honey, homemade jams and jellies, fresh flower bouquets, granola and homemade breads, cookies, cakes, pies and fudge.

The Snellville market, as well as one in Lilburn, is the latest addition to a growing list of farmers markets in Gwinnett, including those in Dacula, Lawrenceville, Norcross and Suwanee.

These markets are still a source for locally and regionally grown produce, with an emphasis placed on freshness, whether it's watermelons just pulled from their vines or blueberries plucked from their shrubs. But the list of foods available at local farmers markets has expanded to include baked goods, meats, milk, fresh pasta, seafood, dips, salad dressings, salsas and more, and the emphasis on freshness doesn't only apply to the produce.

Loganville residents Andrew Reed and Gail Zorn bake up fresh, sourdough-based breads for the weekly Snellville Farmers' Market, including brown sugar pecan loaves and a sourdough white bread. Zorn said fresh bread is common at many farmers markets.

"When we did some exploratory research we did go to several of the farmers markets in and around the Atlanta area and we found plenty of vendors with fresh baked breads," she said, "a whole different variety of breads, from a European style to more of a traditional, sort of a commercial soft bread style."

Susan Durham is a vendor at both the Snellville market on Saturdays and Lilburn market held Friday evenings.

The Stone Mountain resident sells handmade soaps, a hobby she started about 11 years ago.

"I'm a fragrance junkie," she said. "If it sounds good I've got to soap it and pretty soon I had a lot of soap and couldn't use it all by myself so I went ahead and started selling it."

Durham started out as a vendor at arts and crafts shows and has this year branched out into farmers markets.

"It's been doing pretty well," she said. "A lot of people that have a lot of skin sensitivity and stuff like that usually have no problem with homemade soap because it doesn't have all the petroleum products, synthetics and chemicals that a lot of the commercial manufacturers have. Also, the homemade soaps have glycerin as a natural byproduct, which is a natural moisturizer."