By Julie Paysen
You might not know this about Toccoa and surrounding Stephens County, but more than 18,000 acres of this county, located among the foothills of the Blue Ridge Mountains of northeast Georgia, is dedicated to farming. Over 200 individual farmers work the land here, and this does not include the part-time and hobby farmers who also have a passion for raising livestock and growing vegetables.
What this means for residents and visitors to Toccoa is seasonal produce and fresh meat throughout the year, made available directly to the public each summer and fall through the local farmers market.
One of the county’s most important “crops” is actually cattle. Did you know that about 10,000 head of cattle here at a value of $18 million make Stephens County the No. 2 producer of beef in the state of Georgia? Our top annual product remains broilers, part of an enormous chicken-farm network throughout Georgia, but our farmers here raise a range of other livestock as well plus grains, fruit and vegetables, using both conventional and organic methods.
These fresh foods along with local homemade items take center stage at the Stephens County Farmers Market in the city of Toccoa, which takes place during the week, on a day announced every spring, as well as every Saturday morning between May and November, depending on the growing season.
A joint effort of the Toccoa Main Street Program and the Stephens County Extension Service, the market only requires that all vendors be local and sell only items they have made or grown.
In addition to the fresh, local produce, you might find products like soy candles, homemade lotions and soaps, jellies and jams, honey, herbs, plants and homemade pickles.
Growers in the area include Blackberry Farmstead, which produces a range of goat-milk products, and K and H Farms, which in addition to growing pork, chickens and eggs, offer space for parties and children’s farm-themed events.
Over the winter, the open-air Sage Market in downtown Toccoa also opens up for special events and draws thousands of people to the city. The most recent Sage Market event was Christmas-themed and drew vendors from all over the community.
The Stephens County Farmers Market has operated in the past out of a building at 325 N. Broad St., right near the Country Hearth Inn in Toccoa.
This location, which is government-owned is subject to change, so stay tuned for the 2017 location. To take part in the Farmers Market, farmers must join the market association and abide by the rules. For more information, call the Toccoa Main Street at 706-282-3309 or go to Facebook and search for the Stephens County Farmers Market.
By providing people access to local, fresh food, these markets ensure healthy options for the Toccoa area while also supporting local growers.
To learn more about Toccoa, visit www.toccoagachamber.com. Our town is particularly known for its outdoor beauty, including Toccoa Falls and the Paul Anderson Park. Also popular is the Currahee Military Museum, which features the people and places dramatized and made famous in HBO’s “Band of Brothers.”