New farmers market set to open in downtown Macon


Credit: Lena White | Special to The Macon Newsroom

Poplar Street Farmers Market is set to open its first market Wednesday, June 7, from 3-6 p.m.

A group of midstate farmers is set to open its own producers-only farmers market in downtown Macon.

The Poplar Street Farmers Market will host its first market Wednesday, June 7, from 3-6 p.m. in Hollingsworth Park, the landscaped median on Poplar Street between Third Street and Martin Luther King Jr. Boulevard.

The new market is managed by a dozen or so farmers who are in the Middle Georgia Growers Co-op.

“We’re doing sort of a soft opening,” said Julia Asherman, owner of Rag & Frass Farm and co-founding member of the co-op.  “It’s going to be every Wednesday, rain or shine, from three to six.”

The co-op farmers vote on decisions about market operations and who may be a vendor. Food sold at the market must be grown by the seller. Prospective vendors may apply online to sell at the market by visiting

“We can guide the market to be a place that is for us, that prioritizes our success and viability, almost above anything,” Asherman said.

The new market is sponsored by First Choice Primary Care, a non-profit community health center that serves insured, uninsured and underserved individuals. Vendors at the market will be able to accept and double food stamps.

The health center will pay the Macon-Bibb County government $100 in rental fees each week for the co-op to use the park, First Choice Primary Care’s CEO Katherine McLeod said.

“We want to support anything that helps improve people’s health,” McLeod said, adding that nutrition is a part of overall health and many patients served by the health center struggle with chronic diseases and access to healthy food.

First Choice Primary Care plans to set up a booth at the market for public health outreach.

“We’re still trying to encourage people to get COVID boosters and that’s available in our pharmacy,” McLeod said. The health clinic is right beside the grassy median where the market will take place.

It has been nearly a decade since downtown has had a weekly farmer’s market.

Many of the Poplar Street Market’s farmers once were vendors at the Mulberry Market, which  opened in 2009 on Mulberry Street in front of the Grand Opera House. The Mulberry Market moved to Tattnall Square Park in 2014 and was open weekly on Wednesdays until it abruptly shut down last year.

Late last July, farmers with the Middle Georgia Growers Co-Op cut ties with the Mulberry Market manager, Community Health Works, citing declining sales, reduced options, fewer patrons and what they said was a diminished effort to advertise the market. The farmers planned to come under management of the new Napier Heights Food Co-Op, but that arrangement soured as farmers objected to its inclusion of vendors who sold food and goods they did not grow or make themselves.

In October, Community Health Works filed a lawsuit against the Napier Heights Co-Op, alleging trademark infringement for the use of the Mulberry Market’s name and branding.

The lawsuit, which is ongoing, confused patrons and created financial uncertainty for the farmers whose livelihoods depend on the mid-week market.

Though lacking management, the farmers continued to show up every Wednesday to sell their harvest at Tattnall Square Park. The farmers were supported by a base of repeat customers who placed online orders for pick-up at the park.

Between growing and selling food, the farmers in Middle Georgia Growers Co-Op organized what Asherman said is a democratically-led, producers-only farmer’s market that “prioritizes our success and viability” as farmers.

The leafy greens, squash, onions and potatoes the farmer will sell at the first market started from seeds and bulbs that were sown during trying and uncertain times for the farmers, who lacked an official market at which to sell.

“This is how we make our living,” said Kaye Smith, who co-owns Vesterfield Farms in Cochran with her husband, Tim. “We’ve been worried that we were gonna have all this abundance of stuff and were not going to have a market to really sell everything at. But it’s turned around right here, just in time.”

Asherman said there are few spaces left in America for farmers to sell their goods directly to consumers and “ultimately that creates a better, more unique and authentic experience for the customer.”

To contact Civic Journalism Fellow Laura Corley, call 478-301-5777 or email [email protected].