“Doing it this way is really a community effort of all the growers because everybody’s pitching in to get the store up and running and keep it running until it can sustain itself,” said Johnson, who owns the new West End Market & Bakery at 1808 Broad St. “All the farmers are pitching in to grow the store.”
Every item for sale comes from farmers and artisans within a 100-mile radius of the store, said Johnson, who also runs Hexemaus Farms in Waynesboro, Ga.
“We’re trying to be as close to being a fully stocked grocery store as we can get so long as it all comes from local farmers within 100 miles of the store,” she said.
After more than a year of looking for potential locations both near her farm in Burke County and in Augusta’s central business district, Johnson found the vacant building just down the street from St. Luke United Methodist Church. The building was home to the Veggie Truck Farmers Market, which started last year as a means to provide Harrisburg residents with healthy, locally produced foods.
Johnson served as a Veggie Truck vendor, which she plans to continue when the farmers market starts March 25. Johnson also has been involved with Augusta Locally Grown, an online farmers market, since 2011.
There are nearly 20 vendors dropping products off once a week at the market. Ninety percent of the proceeds go back to growers, and 10 percent is designated for the store. Participating farmers pay a $50 monthly fee, but Johnson hopes to discontinue that by the end of 2014 after the market becomes more self-sustainable.
Loretta Adderson and her husband, Sam, who operate Adderson’s Fresh Produce in Keysville, Ga., stopped in the store Tuesday with two coolers full of fresh kale, turnips, Asian collards and red mustard greens they grew on the family farm.
As she filled refrigerated shelves with the produce, Adderson said they had picked the vegetables the day before and predicted they would last consumers at least a week.
“We are bringing certified, organic vegetables right here in their community,” she said. “Just think of the nutrients to improve the health of those families.”
Johnson, who referred to the Harrisburg community as a “food desert,” said the new market is within walking distance for most residents in the neighborhood.
Johnson also sees her new market as a way to assist the local economy.
“Why buy it from California when there’s 60 farmers within 100 miles growing the same stuff?” she said. “It’s not financially sustainable. It’s not environmentally sustainable. It makes no sense. Why not buy it directly from a farmer who is here in Georgia?”