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Dougherty Farmers Market to promote healthy lifestyle

Thelma Fowler and her grandson prepare to sell fresh vegetables at the Dougherty County Farmers Market in downtown Albany on Saturday. This week’s market will be open Saturday from 8 a.m. until 2 p.m. at the parking deck on the corner of Broad Avenue and Jackson Street.

Thelma Fowler and her grandson prepare to sell fresh vegetables at the Dougherty County Farmers Market in downtown Albany on Saturday. This week’s market will be open Saturday from 8 a.m. until 2 p.m. at the parking deck on the corner of Broad Avenue and Jackson Street.

ALBANY — Sumertime is here, and that means it’s time to indulge in fresh healthy vegetables and produce.

But not everyone can afford to do that.

Southwest Georgia is one of the most poverty-stricken areas in the country, and despite the fact that agriculture is central to life in the area, many people cannot afford to eat healthy foods. As produce prices rise in grocery stores, fewer and fewer people are able to balance their daily meals.

That is one of several reasons that groups in Southwest Georgia are working together as part of the Dougherty County Farmers Market collective. Sponsored by the Albany Community Food Alliance Inc., SWGA Project for Community Education Inc. and the East Baker Historical Society, the Market is in its second year in downtown Albany, held at the parking deck on the corner of Broad Avenue and Jackson Street.

Market Coordinator Linda Riggins said that, ultimately, the goals of the event are threefold.

“Our goal is to provide a market for local farmers to sell their produce, to make healthy food affordable for everyone and to help revitalize downtown Albany,” Riggins said.

And organizers say that they also hope to work with the health department, the local hospital and the Red Cross to promote healthy lifestyles to everyone in Southwest Georgia.

To date, 15 farmers are participating in the market. This year’s markets will be extended until Dec. 15.

“It was in popular demand. Many customers requested that we have produce available nearer Thanksgiving and Christmas,” Riggins said “It is a benefit to the farmer and to the consumer.”

The market is also trying to incorporate vegetables that you can’t always find at a chain supermarket, like beets and kale, she said.

As in years past, the Dougherty County Farmers Market will not singularly feature produce. Flowers and plants will be available, as will other food products.

Entertainment will again be a part of the event, starting on June 9 when the Etc. Youth Ensemble dance group is scheduled to perform. Other acts will be scheduled throughout the year.

And the market is still looking for vendors.

“We are looking for individuals who produce items like fresh eggs, cheese, milk and breads to participate in the market,” Riggins said.

But there are specific restrictions on those wishing to participate. Cooking must take place in a commercial kitchen, and the individual must have appropriate certification and licenses.

Organizers invite the public to stop by the Farmers Market from 8 a.m. until 2 p.m.

For more information, contact Riggins at (229) 669-8462 or (229) 317-4355.