Nearly every Saturday morning, rain or shine, bitter cold or sweltering heat, local farmers set up shop at the south end of Forsyth Park to peddle their locally grown crops to local residents.

But the market is more than a consumerism endeavor, said Teri Schell, executive director of the market. It's about creating a community.

"Our mission has always been to serve the farmer first," said Schell, adding that the Forsyth market is a nonprofit entity. "And with that, serving the community by providing easy access to healthy food, forging that relationship."

The market will return to the park Jan. 9 after a brief two-week winter break.

Numerous farmers, including Rafe and Ansley Rivers, who run Canewater Farm out of Darien, sell fresh and organic seasonal vegetables there.

"We can't seem to grow enough," Rafe said. "There is a need and want for organic products here in the Lowcountry."

The Rivers also produce specialty items, including grits and oatmeal, and plan to begin selling oysters at the market this year.

Schell said young farmers such as the Rivers, along with newcomers Andrew Williams and Melissa Cipollone from Southern Drift Farms, who will begin vending this year, provide a clear path for the future of food in Savannah.

"We're growing a new generation of farmers and that's important," she said.

Williams agreed.

"I think young farmers bring lots of enthusiasm and creativity to the job. It's inspiring to be working and learning with other young people who see the importance of farming," he said.

"Farming provides an incredible amount of opportunities to become a part of a community."

And with that comes community outreach. A new program, Food Truck 912, is taking the market on the road with a mobile farm project aimed at bringing local fruits and vegetables into Savannah neighborhoods with the least access to healthy foods.

The program is nearly two years in the making and rolled out its pilot program last month with much success.

It will continue this year visiting sites around the city, including the Department of Children and Family Services Center on Wheaton Street and the Moses Jackson Community Center on Richards Street, among others.

In addition, the mobile farmers' market will double SNAP/EBT benefits, as well as offer educational opportunities, including tutorials on how to pick and prepare seasonal vegetables.

"It's a way to have a conversation about health," Schell said. "We provide introductory education about food, which has proved to be invaluable."

Both the farmers' market and mobile food truck creates a partnership between vendor and consumer while supporting a sustainable food system. Selling foods that are produced close to home is a small step in a global concentration on eating healthier and supporting the local agriculture.

"It's what people want," Schell said. "And what our community needs."

 

OTHER AREA MARKETS

Wilmington Island Farmers' Market: 111 Walthour Road; 9 a.m. to 1 p.m. Saturdays; returns March 5

Savannah State Farmers' Market: 701 U.S. 80 West; 6 a.m. to 6 p.m. Monday-Friday and 9 a.m. to 5 p.m. Saturday; year-round

Tybee Island Farmers' Market: 10 Veterans Drive; 10 a.m. to 1 p.m. Monday; returns March 7