The Athens Farmers Market has been a treasure to Athens for about 50 years now. Every Saturday brings a new array of people and a new chance to introduce newcomers of Athens to the locally-produced foods and goods and their makers.
The market, located at 1000 E. State St., is made up of an array of vendors. Those who choose to participate are usually from around Athens, but the distance can range to up to 150 miles. Wherever they come from, Athens has been able to build a sense of togetherness for the vendors and their consumers.
The vendors of the market dedicate their time and effort to displaying their goods for the people of Athens to see. Given the big commitment, the vendors have been able to share how they ended up at the market and how the experience has been for them.
“It's more than just the marketplace,” Ed Perkins, a vegetable vendor at the market, said. “Although COVID has kind of suppressed the social life of the market, it's still a gathering place in the sense of the old-fashioned, outdoor local market. Before supermarkets came along, every community always had their local outdoor market day, which was a gathering place for the community. So this kind of continues that tradition.”
Perkins sells locally-grown veggies and has been for most of his life. In fact, he has contributed to the market the longest. Originally coming to Athens, Perkins was an Ohio University student. He later met his wife, who also attended OU, and they made Athens their home. The market quickly began a chance for them to feel connected with the faces of Athens.
For some, the market is their key to a creative outlet and paves way for them to share their stories through their work that has been waiting to be shared.
“I've been with the Athens art guild for about four years and selling at the market for that amount of time,” Beth Weingroff, owner of Sledding Hill Pottery, said. “I love being out in the community. The work that I make reflects my take on life, my take on politics, the joy that I have in exploring pottery. I tend to work with really vibrant colors that just kind of reflect happiness, but also there's subtlety, like in my bird mugs, which I make on a regular basis; the attitude of the face of the mug will reflect what's going on politically. The last batch of mugs that I made the little birds are wearing pearl necklaces because our vice president wears pearls. All my work is functional and I love having it out in the community — keeps me really connected to the great people.”
Weingroff has been able to use her pottery to tell a story and use it to feel more connected with herself while also using it to connect with the people that visit her on Saturdays. Her pottery creates a sense of individuality and value, something all vendors at the market have in common.
The market has been a growing experience, even for the vendors.
“We run a small vegetable farm,” Adam Blaney, owner of Blaney Farms, said. “We live in Albany. Our farm is about five acres, but we grow on about an acre and a half. So we only grow about an acre and a half of vegetables. Some of that's under covers, under like, tunnels and greenhouses. Next week will be two years that we've been here, so we're still fairly new to full-time farming. I grew up in this area around Athens and my wife and I both went to OU.”
Blaney has been able to bring ministry into his farming, creating a sentimental value in it for himself and his family.
Although not all vendors are right-around-the-corner local, they have felt drawn to stay connected with Athens and continue the bond they had formed with it earlier in their life. Therefore, the vendors encourage anyone who hasn’t been to take a chance one Saturday and introduce themselves to the talent Athens holds.
“Students come and they should try it out,” Perkins said. “We have lots of great foods available — get a taste of Athens.”
Correction appended: A previous version of this article stated the Athens Farmers Market took place on Sundays when it takes place on Saturdays. The article has been updated to reflect the most accurate information.