By Joe Earle

Two Sandy Springs businessmen propose opening an outdoor farmers market on Saturday mornings at Sandy Springs Circle and Johnson Ferry Road.
The market would offer spaces where merchants could sell fresh fruits and vegetables, flowers and some crafts, market organizers Jeffrey Langfelder and Andrew Bauman told members of Sandy Springs City Council.  It also could serve as a community gathering place, they said.
“The purpose of this market is to create a better Sandy Springs,” Langfelder said.
Several council members voiced support of the idea during the council’s informal meeting Jan. 19. Other raised questions about whether and how the city should receive rent from the market, which Bauman and Langfelder propose operating in the parking lot of vacant former Target store now owned by the city.
Dist. 6 Councilwoman Karen Meinzen McEnerny questioned whether the city should grant use of the property to Bauman and Langfelder without seeking proposals from other businesses.
“It’s a great opportunity,” she said. “We can’t just hand this opportunity at no cost to this group.”
But other council members said discussions of a ways to use the site in the past had produced no concrete proposals, and any delay might only harm the market plan.
“We’re not talking about a million-dollar contract here,” Dist. 3 Councilman Chip Collins said. “What we have is an opportunity to take advantage of the free work these gentlemen have done to get a farmer’s market. They’re not going to get rich in this. Neither is anybody else.”
Langfelder and Bauman said they hope to be able to open the Sandy Springs Farmers Market by late March or early April and to operate it through late November.
The market would provide 10-by-10-foot spaces for vendors, who would set up their shops about 6:30 a.m. each Saturday and break them down about 1 p.m., Langfedler said.
Bauman said similar markets in neighboring towns such as Marietta are successful and now draw Sandy Springs residents. There are about 70 farmers markets in Georgia, the businessmen said.
“It’s a local and regional trend that’s exploding,” Bauman said.
The market would provide fresh, local produce for residents interested in “farm-to-table” cooking, the market’s promoters said, and Sandy Springs offers a strong opportunity for the vendors who would be attracted to a farmers market. “When you look at the map of the farmers markets in the metro area, there’s a big hole in our area,” Bauman said.
The market’s promoters also say it will strengthen the city’s downtown. Civic and non-profit groups may exhibit at the market, they said, and long-range plans include an area for a stage where local school groups might perform. In the future, the market also could host demonstrations by chefs and events such as  cooking competitions, the promoters said.
Dist. 5 Councilman Tibby DeJulio, who called himself  “a big fan of this,” said the city needed an attraction in the area where the market was proposed and that he thought the market would draw people to Sandy Spring’s downtown.
“This is a promotional project for Sandy Springs,” DeJulio said. “We can bring 1,000 people a week to Sandy Springs who don’t usually go to Sandy Springs.”