Damon Lee Fowler: Forsyth Farmers' Market carves vibrant niche in downtown life

Every Saturday morning from early spring until late autumn downtowners are rediscovering, at the southern end of Forsyth Park, the pleasures of shopping for truly fresh-from-the-farm food.

Now in its fourth season, the Forsyth Farmers’ Market may be modest by comparison to more established markets, but it has put down solid roots and is lively, vibrant and growing.

Now hosting more than thirty vendors, the market offers just about everything from produce to grass-fed meat, free-range poultry, first quality dairy products, local honey, fresh baked goods, and coffee, as well as potted plants, seeds, and seedlings for starting your own garden at home.

All the vendors grow or make everything they sell, which means every one of them, from farmer to dairyman, beekeeper, coffee-roaster and baker, is fully committed to his or her products.

One of the best parts about the market is the interaction with these committed men and women. They’re never too busy to pause and swap recipes or give a customer tips on how to care for and prepare unfamiliar produce or pasture-raised meat.

In short, they don’t want to stop at selling it, they want to make sure that you get the most from it after you’ve taken it home to your kitchen.

The one point that new shoppers are taken aback to discover is that most of the meat and poultry are sold vacuum-sealed and flash frozen. Farmers who raise grass-fed, pastured animals are mostly small operations that simply can’t harvest animals every week.

Flash freezing keeps the meat in top condition and is actually superior to the wet-aged meat that is sold commercially. As one farmer put it, “fresh” is a criteria for lettuce, but not for meat.

The best way to shop the market is to go without a set plan. Keep your eyes and your mind open to what you find, instead of what you’ve decided you want to find. If you see something unfamiliar, ask.

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