It was a beautiful weekend past in the A, and ideal conditions for the annual opening of the Peachtree Road Farmer's Market in Buckhead on Saturday. The joint was mobbed. Being on the vanguard of neighborhood events (as required by the job), we at Curbed Atlanta have been attending the Farmer's Market since it was just a couple of tents and few folks strolling around. But it has come a long way since then and this was perhaps the busiest we've ever seen the market.
The Peachtree Road Market is not the only farmers' market hitting boom times in Atlanta. The metro area's neighborhood markets have grown prolifically both in number and size over the past few years, including markets in Piedmont Park, Morningside and East Atlanta to name a handful (thanks in no small part to the work of market promoters and groups like Georgia Organics).
Waiting in a 10-minute line for a cup of Batdorf & Bronson coffee (which was worth the wait, despite also having to resist- unsuccessfully- the wafting smells of Pine Street Market's bacon samples coming over from the next tent), you couldn't help but wonder if the Market is out-growing its grass-roots, neighborhood origins. Parking was tough, the tent setup seemed a little lacking for some of the vendors, and the mass of shoppers seemed to call for a more permanent infrastructure to support the event.
We're not getting down here. The vibe and energy of the crowd was great, but there is no question that the market for local produce and products in Atlanta is growing up, and needs a grown-up market to reflect that. The neighborhood markets don't need to be replaced, but Atlanta just may be ready for a permanent location that can be a fixed urban marketplace and gathering place for the city. While the announcement of the Atlanta Food Truck Park & Market was good news, the location and amenities fall well short of a facility like the Ferry Building Marketplace in San Francisco. Luckily, such a plan is, of course, in the making. Jamestown's Ponce City Market is intended to have a permanent marketplace offering space for local vendors and artisans and be a city-wide destination. We are ready to see the vision implemented.
The effect of the opening of Ponce City Market on local farmers' markets will be something to watch. Will it pull away both vendors and shoppers from other neighborhood markets? Maybe, but this may not be a terrible thing. It might be a bit of a release valve for local markets by trimming down the crowds to more manageable levels, allowing them to retain their neighborhood feel. It may also open up opportunities for new vendors as maturing businesses "graduate" to more fixed (and more expensive) space, allowing start-up farmers and artisans to fill the space at the lower-cost markets.
Hopefully, the demand for local produce and goods continues to grow and Ponce City Market and the neighborhood markets complement each other to provide a network of locally-grown food and goods options to residents while also supporting local businesses. If Saturday was any indication, the potential of the local market is deep, and it's just getting tapped. Ultimately, the harried-but-still-good-natured coffee guy had the best way to sum up the snaking lines and booming demand -- "Uptown Problems" are the best ones to have.