Farmers markets and organic foods are becoming increasingly more popular and commonplace in cities across the U.S., and Athens is no exception, with two large farmers markets finding comfortable local homes.

“We’re really trying to push people to realize that we have some great food producers in this area that really deserve the support of the community in which they operate,” said Jan Kozak, market manager of the Athens Farmers Market.

The Athens Farmers Market is a nonprofit organization that seeks to give local growers and artisans a quality environment to sell their products, as well as provide the people in Athens a convenient source of organic food.

“We exist to establish a connection between food producers, craftsmen and the community,” Kozak said.

The Athens Farmers Market has two locations, operating on Saturdays from 8 a.m.-noon at Bishop Park and Wednesdays from 4-7 p.m. at city hall. The first began last Saturday, but the Wednesday market will open April 9.

The city hall market is smaller, given the downtown space it operates in, but the Saturday market at Bishop Park has a large, almost festival like feel to it, with live music, cooking demonstrations and some vendors offering made-to-order dishes of food.

The market participates in the Wholesome Wave Georgia program, which allows EBT users to double their dollars when buying food at participating farmers markets, allowing for those at lower incomes to still eat healthy.

The other large market is the West Broad Farmers Market, started by the Athens Land Trust. The two operate in cooperation, with both seeking to aid local food producers and the community as a whole, and Kozak himself played a role in starting the market.

“More markets is better for the community,” Kozak said. “To me, it’s not about the Athens Farmers Market reaching everybody in Athens that there is to reach, because there are some realities that make that impossible. So a market like the West Broad market appealing to the community that’s in that area is a really great thing.”

Alongside hosting a place for local vendors to sell produce, the West Broad Farmers Market also offers educational programs, such as workshops on sustainable agriculture and health, for the community.

“One of the things that we really pride ourselves on is the educational component of our market,” market manager Christina Hylton said. “Not everyone knows about organic food or the organic movement.”

The West Broad Farmers Market will be opening for its second year on May 3 and will begin hosting a weekly market every Saturday through December on West Broad Street, open from 10 a.m.-2 p.m., as well as a smaller market each Tuesday from 4-7 p.m.

The organizers will also be opening up a market section that will accept WIC checks in order to give people in unstable financial situations a way to acquire healthy and safe foods.

“The whole idea of our farmers market is to address issues of access to healthy and affordable food,” Hylton said.

The market’s organizers seek to give the market a broad, supportive niche in the community through their food and educational programs, but also by giving a place for artisans to sell homemade works, and offering help for vendors to get their produce certified as naturally grown if they don’t have the certification yet.

“We try to bring the community together, not just through food and purchases, but also through dialogue and conversation,” Hylton said.

For Athens to have room for two large and swiftly expanding farmers markets demonstrates the strong reception of the organic food movement in town. With both markets providing helpful programs in the community and profitable spaces where vendors can operate, the markets seek to bring with them a great deal of benefits alongside the healthier eating choices they make available.

“I think that the organic food sector is one of quickest growing sectors in the food industry,” Kozak said.