On a sunny fall morning, the parking lot of the Market on State is packed with cars, people and baked goods alike. People chatter about the goings-on of the previous night, students yawn from being awake so early, children lay asleep in their strollers. People can hear shouting about hot, fresh bread, listen to the sweet melodies from various bards who sing in between aisles. Popcorn is popping, dogs are barking, coffee is brewing. It’s a normal Saturday morning at the Athens Farmers Market.
Semiweekly, Wednesdays and Saturdays, The Market on State is converted to the Athens Farmers Market. Vendors from all over Ohio venture to Athens to set up shop for a couple of hours.
The Athens Farmers Market celebrated its 40th year this June. The first farmers market only had three vendors; the next week five vendors showed up, according to the Farmer’s Market website. While the amount of vendors steadily grew that summer, it was certain the top-selling items were vegetables. Since that summer, the market now offers more than just produce; bakers, horticulturists, cheese makers and people who create herbal remedies line the parking lot each week. The Athens Farmers Market website lists over 80 vendors, however, there are typically about 30 booths in attendance on both days.
Walking up and down the parking lot, newcomers to the Farmers Market will find booths that sell fruits, vegetables, bread, pizza, flowers, candles, soap, popcorn, herbal remedies, fudge, jams and jellies, coffee and salsas. Even the local troubadours come out each weekend to serenade customers while they shop — and to look for a few tips, of course.
All of the vendors are either locals or come from the southeastern Ohio area. With many vendors being farmers, it’s no wonder fruits and veggies top the list of items that are sold at the Farmers Market.
While some would assume since these products are all locally grown and made, many college students wouldn’t want to shell out the money for produce and other items at the Farmers Market. For the Athens Farmers Market, this is not the case. Many students go to the market every weekend.
“I go every Saturday to grocery shop,” said senior Kristen Spicker. “I go there (the Farmers Market) first to buy locally and eat healthier.”
Eating healthier is on many students’ minds, and by buying food at the Farmers Market, they can do so. Many of the food found at the market is organic, having no pesticides, allowing students to know the food they buy is healthier for them than something they can buy at a grocery store.
However, not everyone comes for the healthier foods.
“My favorite food has to be the kettle corn,” Spicker said. “It’s hands down the best thing there. It’s not healthy, but it’s the best.”
Other students get a variety of foods while shopping the booths of the market.
“I like shopping locally for vegetables and cheeses,” said senior Kelsey Grau. “I also love all the sweets they have.”
While the Athens Farmers Market is twice a week, most students tend to go on Saturday rather than during the week.
“I’ve been on Wednesdays, but I like Saturdays much better,” Grau said. “There are more booths and more people; it’s just more fun.” Grau added that seeing more people in attendance and more vendors in attendance embodies the spirit of Appalachia.
Vendors, each in their own way, do embody Appalachia. Vendors come from all over the area including: Millfield, Albany, New Marshfield, McConnelsville, Amesville, Zanesville, Guysville and of course, Athens.
From Zanesville, Mex-City Salsa, owned by Ted Zakany, is at the Farmers Market every Saturday April through December. The salsa connoisseur comes into Athens and is always a big hit with locals and students alike.
Salsas range from the typical mild to hot, but also have unique flavors that customers buy regularly. The distinct flavors draw in people who aren’t normally salsa people.
“The red raspberry chipotle is great for barbecuing,” Zakany said. “Our mild peach salsa is best on chicken or even with veggies.”
Mex-City Salsa makes all of their salsa with all-natural ingredients and locally-grown ingredients.
“Our ‘typical’ salsas draw people in too,” he said. “Our original hot is a favorite; it’s like a ‘friendly hot.’”
Mex-City brings jars of each flavor for samples (as well as plenty for sale), along with their tortilla chips so potential customers can taste test all and any of the salsas they’d like. Many customers stick to the classic flavors such as mild and hot, but Zakany urges people to go out of their comfort zones and try their original flavors, such as the red raspberry chipotle and the garlic, olive & pepper. Everyone will find a flavor they enjoy. And at $5 a jar, Mex-City Salsa is a steal.
With the Athens Farmers Market occurring twice a week, it is possible to find almost everything one is looking for. Vendors come from across the state to sell their products and typically offer a price even the poorest of college students can afford.
The Athens Farmers Market is every Wednesday from April-December; it is year-round every Saturday. The market goes from 10-1 both days. Located in the parking lot of The Market on State, 1000 E. State St., Athens, Ohio. Check their website for details about what vendors are available on what days and what time of the year.