I really don’t know much about the history of Your Dekalb Farmers Market, but I do know a little bit about my history with this place of awesomeness.
I grew up in Georgia, mostly in the Atlanta area, and have lived in and out of the area most of my life. I remember going to YDFM when I was very young with my aunt who lived in Decatur, not far from the original market. I also remember going after they moved to the current site, but I believe it looked a bit different back then. I was still very young, and I only went a couple of times, but I seem to remember being just enthralled with huge tanks of fish, and watching the employees reaching into the water to nab one for a customer. There are still tanks of fish now, but I don’t think as many.
YDFM doesn’t allow any photography inside of the market, so sadly, I cannot show you the amazingness of this place. However, I can tell you a little bit about it. At least this particular trip.
I live about 40 miles from YDFM, which in our area means it can take anywhere from 40 minutes to 2 hours to travel to or from the market. And yet, it is where I buy the majority of our meat and fresh produce. It is also where I buy spices, fresh pasta, drinking vinegar, and international products that I would like to try. I also take our recycling to their recycling center as the one in our county does not accept as many items. The photo you see above is from the furthest parking spot facing the front doors of the market. I often refer to the parking lot as the Serengeti, mostly because the few trees placed here and there makes me think of the pictures I have always seen of that place. I usually try to park under one of the trees, but on this day I decided I could use the walk since I skipped the treadmill that morning.
If you’ve never been to YDFM, there are a few things you should probably know.
First, as you can see, they have extensive hours. However, if you have any kinds of issues with crowds or claustrophobia, some days and hours are better than others. I try to go during the week, early in the day. Mid afternoon isn’t too bad, but for me the traffic on the way home is terrible, so I’d rather go in the mornings. I’ve been on a Saturday a couple of times, and will only do that now out of desperation. Also, the week or days just before a holiday are insane. As in you can’t reasonably shop with a normal shopping cart on those days.
Second, speaking of shopping carts, if you want one, you’d better get it from the parking lot on your way in because there are none inside. There are rolling plastic baskets that are deep but slim, and of course, hand carried baskets. But I can only go every couple of weeks or so, so I generally need a bigger cart.
Third, they don’t take credit cards, and they don’t really like to take checks. Cash or a debit card are your best bet.
Fourth, I have the same suggestion for this place as I do for IKEA virgins. The first time you go, show some restraint and don’t buy much. Just a few things, then go home and let everything you just saw kind of settle in your brain for a bit. Otherwise it is easy to waste money and end up with a lot of food that you can’t possibly consume before it goes bad.
My weakness is the bakery department. I actually don’t buy anything there anymore for a couple of reasons. First, it is so dang good that I could probably eat my weight in breads and muffins and croissants and cookies, and that just doesn’t work out very well. Second, they are fresh baked and don’t have any preservatives, and so should be eaten within a day or two of purchase. Sadly, I have found that we can’t eat it fast enough, and usually have some waste.
As you can see above, I mostly focus on fresh produce at the market. There’s aisle after aisle of varieties of produce, most of which I am familiar with and know what to do with, but some is just foreign and intriguing. There are organic and nonorganic options, and the description above the bins includes the origin of the food. I find that the produce is fresher than at the grocery, and that the prices are at least competitive, but often are better. They bring in and move such a large volume that the turn over is amazing. Also, if you are wondering if something is actually in season, or if it is maybe late in the season, you will know quickly at YDFM. In the height of the strawberry season the berry table is overflowing with packages of berries, but when in winter the selection is much smaller. While there are always a wonderful variety of apples available, it is evident that apples are currently in season by how many more than just the standards there are in the market.
Other favorites are the deli, seafood and meat departments. Pictured above is a pretty normal lunch for me. YDFM smokes their own meats on site, and I prefer their sliced turkey, chicken and roast beef over other places. While I don’t often eat it in a sandwich, I do like to make kind of a deli plate for a light lunch. They have an amazing selection of cheeses from all over the world. I like to buy a new cheese to try from time to time, and then talk my husband’s head off over dinner about where it is from.
The seafood department at YDFM is a force in it’s own right, and simply has to be experienced to be understood. My house could fit in the seafood department. My entire house. And if it is seafood and they aren’t selling it at YDFM, you probably shouldn’t be eating it. I have gone in there when every bin and tank was full, and and I have been there when the seafood selections were thin. There’s a reason for that.
I don’t like to buy chicken anywhere else. I find that the chicken at YDFM is the size that you would expect a chicken to be. It doesn’t look like it came from a chicken that could beat you up in a dark alley. And they have just about every cut you could think of. They also have turkey, beef, bison, lamb and pork. There’s probably something else in there, but I can’t remember, and well, no pics allowed to help me remember! We love the sausage that YDFM mixes. They have it in turkey, chicken and pork. The hot is the best, but to each his own. *Here’s a tip… When buying seafood or meat at the market, ask for ice. If they have any available, they will double bag your meat purchase in a bag of ice. However, I find the cashiers don’t really like it because it gets the labels wet and makes them difficult to scan.
Spices are another thing that I love at YDFM. They are significantly less expensive than the national brands at the grocery, and are fresh. They don’t come in fancy packaging, but they don’t need to look good to taste good. I use the pumpkin pie spice in my favorite fall protein shake.
McClary Bros Old Timey Drinking Vinegar is another thing that I recently discovered at YDFM. I believe you can purchase it elsewhere, but it’s just as easy for me to get it there since I know they carry it. Every evening before bed my husband prepares a glass of this drinking vinegar mixed with some seltzer water for each of us. The biggest benefit we’ve noticed is a significant reduction of acid reflux at night. I don’t know that it is as healthful as Bragg’s, but it is definitely more palatable. There are several different flavors, but we like the Michigan Apple Pie the best. I’d say the Beet and Carrot one would come in second, but really, by a long shot. The other flavors are just too sharp for me. It’s also a little pricy in my opinion, but we only drink a little at a time, and since we don’t really drink anything else other than water and Red Rock Ginger Ale, we have room in the budget for it. Again, I am sure Bragg’s is a healthier option, but how healthy can it be if you hate it so much you won’t drink it?
Dinner on the same day as a trip to YDFM usually involves whatever I saw that wasn’t actually on my list. This time it was fresh whole wheat pasta and YDFM’s own marinara sauce. I’ve wanted to try their marinara for a long time, and it was quite good, but I have to be honest, I like mine made from our homegrown and bottled tomatoes better. The pasta was perfect, but Jeff wasn’t crazy about the texture. Fresh pasta is a little different from dried. I froze what pasta we didn’t eat that night, and I’ll probably have it for lunch some time.
So, that’s your intro to Your Dekalb Farmers Market. If you live in the Atlanta area and have never been, you really should give it a try, and if you are in the area visiting, it is worth putting on your list of places to visit.