Woman brings Greek village tradition to Norcross
By Carole Townsend
Norcross - The Norcross Community Market is back, and with it comes flair, diversity and food, food, food. Now open Saturday mornings through August 13 from 9 am – 1 pm, shoppers can expect to find a brand new kind of farmer’s market.
“We did a survey back in January 2015, and we asked residents what they wanted to see in their farmer’s market,” said Connie Weathers, the original driving force behind the Sustainable Norcross initiative. According to Weathers, market goers indicated that they didn’t want to see home contractors, jewelry makers and other “stuff.” What they did want was true locally grown produce (not fruits and vegetables bought in Forest Park and trucked north). They wanted to see true locally-sourced dairy and meat. They wanted more variety in choices. They wanted a better location for the market (The old market used to be held near the railroad tracks in downtown Norcross, on Tuesdays), and they wanted a better day and time so that more people could shop.
On June 4 of this year, the city of Norcross answered those requests with a brand new market held in Lillian Webb Park on Saturdays. Everything sold at the market is grown, made or caught within 400 miles of Norcross, most of them closer. Sometimes blueberries are brought in by an Alabama grower, and the “shrimp man” from Valona, GA, catches his shrimp on Friday mornings for the Saturday markets. It doesn’t get much fresher than that.
But this new, improved Farmer’s Market goes well beyond offering produce and other food items up for sale. The Norcross market is being used as a data source to establish best practices, according to Weathers. Sponsored by Sustainable Norcross and Project Generation Gap, best practice baselines will be established for use by markets statewide. For instance, live music will now accompany the familiar market sounds. The Norcross Market is dog friendly. More diverse selections will be offered up to shoppers, such as mangoes-on-a-stick, roasted corn on a stick, and Asian foods. Shoppers using EBT cards can get double their money’s worth at the Norcross market, a practice aimed at getting low income families eating healthier. Seniors at a Norcross senior living home with which the market has partnered can double the value of their vouchers at the market.
There will be kids’ activities and in July, Mr. and Mrs. Claus (in summer attire, of course) will be on hand for the market’s Christmas in July event. Cooking demonstrations by downtown square chefs as well as by Asian and Hispanic chefs will be held, showing shoppers how to use technique, herbs, spices and foods with which they may not be familiar. Non-profits will get free space at the market to let the community know about their organizations. In other words, “the object is to create community over food,” said Weathers.
Chris Casey embodies everything that the Norcross Community Market is about. A Greek resident of the city, Chris recently invited anyone from the community who wished to learn how to bake a peach cobbler into her home. All she asked them to bring was fresh peaches; she provided the rest. A couple of Saturdays ago, in Chris and Sean Casey’s kitchen, she demonstrated how to make a mouthwatering peach cobbler. In aluminum pans provided by Chris, participants combined milk, sugar, butter, flour and fresh peaches, then took turns baking their cobblers while they chatted and got to know each other.
“Norcross is a Greek Mayberry,” Chris said, laughing. “My mother came from a small village in Greece, and she lived there after World War II. The market was the gathering place, and the richest person in the village was the baker.” Many people in her mother’s village couldn’t afford to bake their own foods, so they took them to the village baker to cook them. “Then they'd ‘pame volta’ (take a stroll) to the taverna and share stories late into the night. That's community!” Chris said.
When pecans are harvested later this year, Chris hopes to open her kitchen to the community again, teaching cooks how to make delicious Greek baklava.
“We intentionally limited the number of days we’d open the market,” said Weathers, explaining that more variety could be offered in a market that isn’t open year-round, or even for several months. “We’re hoping to offer pop-up markets in the off- season, but people can look for more information with respect to those on the market’s website.”
For more information about the Norcross Community Market, go to www.norcrosscommunitymarket.com.