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EARTH DAY: Good problem to have
Forsyth Farmers Market a microcosm of Earth Day issues of supply & demand

If anyone’s wondering if the Forsyth Farmers Market will be open at the same time as the City’s Earth Day celebration in Forsyth Park this Saturday, the answer is yes.

Beginning at 2 p.m., right after their usual closing time of 1 p.m., the Farmers Market hosts a Vegetable Costume Contest (or fruit!) If you’re not so confident about your culinary couture, the West Broad Street YMCA is sponsoring a costume workshop at 1:30 p.m.

Why dress like a fruit? $500 in prizes, hello!

“It’s going to be a lot of fun. We were just throwing out ideas,” laughs Teri Schell, community development manager for the Market. “We thought of a flash mob at first, but I guess it’s not really a flash mob if you advertise it in advance.”

However, don’t expect a lot of the Market’s usual succulent fresh goods to be left by then. Turns out the Forsyth Farmers Market is a victim of its own success.

“Our smaller vendors usually sell out by 10:30 or 11, and most larger farmers not much later,” Schell says. “We’ve measured between 1000–2000 people walking through the market each week. They’re wiping our vendors out.”

To what does Schell attribute the Market’s overwhelming success?

“It’s the location, honestly. There’s so much foot traffic in Forsyth Park, and we’ve always felt like there’s a place for everybody there. Everyone feels comfortable in Forsyth Park, whether they’re wealthier or of more modest means.”

She mentions the symbiotic existence of Brighter Day Natural Foods and Sentient Bean Coffeehouse (Bean owner Kristin Russell is a co–founder of the Farmers Market).

“They’ve all been very supportive. It seems like it’s good for their business too, since what you can’t get at the market usually you can go over there and get.”

Additionally, it seems unlikely that there would be another location better fitting for a farmer’s market anywhere near downtown.

“I’m not sure if any location more north in the historic district would be able to handle the capacity. The logistics are very difficult. It’s very labor intensive and there’s a large volume of trucks. It takes us at least two hours to set up each week,” she says.

But more importantly, the bottom line is — and this goes to the heart of what Earth Day is all about — there is more demand for farm–to–table produce than supply right now.

“Of course people are learning that when you get food from a local farmer it will cost less in terms of transportation. It will be more fresh and more nutritious. That’s all valid,” says Schell.

“But I also think a lot of people don’t understand why there’s really only one successful market right now. It’s because the farmers to support another market don’t actually exist in the area.”

Certain local laws and regulations, she says, are not conducive to urban farming, though that is slowly changing.

“I understand the county is addressing the issue of chickens and bees. But even those measures won’t do anything to address the need for large scale production,” Schell says.

“It’s becoming more attractive to grow your own food. It’s great for personal consumption, but it’s really hard work and there’s a huge learning curve.

“As for our farmers, they work extremely hard. They live and breathe farming. For not much money.”

Forsyth Park Farmers Market

Saturday, 9 a.m.–1 p.m., Forsyth Park.

Veggie Costume workshop

1:30, Veggie Costume Contest 2 p.m. $500 in prizes.