Monday, January 14, 2008

Athens Institution May Make a Move

The Athens Farmers Market began with the 1973 growing season and has since become a staple event every Saturday throughout the year and Wednesdays between April and December. At the height of its popularity during the summer months, upwards of fifty vendors gather in the University Mall parking lot on East State Street with hundreds of customers looking for vegetables, fruits, meats, home-made jams, flowers, and other products from Athens County farms.

But 2008 may mean change for the Athens institution. For the past ten years, the farmers market has set-up at the University Mall parking lot rent free, but now the mall owners are changing their tune. The Athens Farmers Market website states that the market may be relocating to the community center on East State Street, its original location.

The Athens Community Center offers increased access for pedestrians and bicyclists, as well as site security. There are also plans to develop a permanent pavilion, with the market as its primary tenant. However, the smaller area means that vendors may face limits on their space and customers will face increased traffic congestion because parking and pavement is limited. These problems would be alleviated if the Center's paved area can be expanded.

Moving locations is not definite for the market. However money concerns over paying rent and building a pavilion are keeping management and membership busy trying to figure out the future. Meetings and negotiations with University Mall owners will continue at the end of this week and a final decision is expected in March.

With vendors of fresh food and plants, lively customers, and entertainment, the Athens Farmers Market serves the community as a place to buy local goods and enjoy a Saturday morning. For decades the market has been a beneficial and enjoyable event every week and will continue to serve multiple purposes for the Athens community, no matter the location.

The market is supported by the City of Athens and many other local, regional, and national organizations. ACEnet provides a place for the community kitchen to support producers of value-added goods. Community Food Initiatives sponsors schoolyard gardening, seed saving, and an expanded effort to get more food to the needy. Rural Action works to sustain forestry and agricultural programs. Other allies include, OSU Extension, which provides assistance to all types of growers, as well as local restaurants, Ohio University's food service division, and the Athens Chamber of Commerce.

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