West Broad Market Garden thrives in new location thanks to online ordering

The Athens Land Trust recently moved the popular West Broad Market Garden from its former location at West Broad School to the Athens Housing Authority parking lot at 300 Rocksprings St. The market has responded to the pandemic crisis by taking a community supported page Agriculture playbook, offering products, meats, fish, dairy, prepared foods, honey and more to its customers on a new website (wbfm.locallygrown.net) . Ordered items are available for pickup at a drive-thru sidewalk in the parking lot at their new location on Saturday.

West Broad Farmers Market manager Ellie Adams says vendors and shoppers miss the weekly hustle and bustle in the weekly market, but have responded enthusiastically to the new format. The new plan lets vendors know exactly how many products they need to deliver to the market on Saturday, she says, saving them a lot of time.

Customers can shop online from 5 p.m. Sunday until 1 p.m. Thursday. Customers then arrive at the new location between 11:30 a.m. and 1:30 p.m. on Saturday to pick up their orders. Payments can be arranged online or can be made at the drive-thru. The market accepts cash, checks, credit cards or EBT / SNAP. The market will continue its policy of offering “double dollars” to SNAP beneficiaries, thus cutting their bills in half.

Sellers receive orders from the website and create packages for each individual’s order. During delivery, farmers’ market assistants sort these packages, assemble orders, and deliver them to customers as they pass.

Heather Benham, executive director of the Athens Land Trust, reports that the market is attracting more and more new sellers every week, almost doubling since last year. Currently, around 30 vendors offer 500 products, including fresh produce, herbs, catfish, specialty Wagyu beef, flowers, honey, and nuts. Want to see the caterpillars metamorphose into monarch butterflies? They are available at the local Floating Flowers Butterfly Farm, as well as essential butterfly grass for newly hatched monarchs.

The new location will also house a community garden, returning a popular feature to the old location. The new gardens, currently a series of raised planters, are filled with rich, organic topsoil and were awarded last week at an ALT meeting to neighborhood gardeners who want to grow their own produce. Benham says the market will work with the community to continue adding planting beds to the one acre plot.

The ALT was forced to search for a new site for the market and garden when, after years of debate over the future of the property, the Clarke County School District decided to turn the vacant West Broad School into an early learning center.

ALT also owns Williams Farm, a five-acre farm off North Avenue, where farm manager Seth Nivens practices next-level farming techniques to improve soil quality. Currently, there are only cover crops designed to improve the soil and suppress weeds in the fields. Before planting and fall seeding, cover crops, a mixture of buckwheat and field peas that will provide mulch for fall crops. The garden’s 54 ASC clients are currently on hiatus and will be awaiting the new fall harvests from mid-September to the end of September.

The Athens Land Trust has a strong mission that includes the West Broad Market – its most visible project – and its popular Youth Development Program, a paid job training program that has helped over 300 high school students. The Young Urban Builders, Young Urban Farmers, and Young Conservation Stewards programs are designed to give these students exposure to hands-on professional training and provide “soft skills” such as public speaking and leadership. Other programs support local community and school gardens. ALT’s mission also spans across the state with conservation programs that help landowners improve soil and water quality on nearly 19,000 acres of farmland, wetlands and of natural areas. In addition to retaining farmland and green spaces, the organization also builds and renovates affordable housing, using a model in which the buyer owns the home, but the ALT keeps the land in trust, reducing costs. costs and keeping the home affordable in perpetuity.

Terri S. Tomasini