The Common Market Georgia, a nonprofit aggregator and distributor of locally grown foods, is expanding operations in the Atlanta metropolitan area with the acquisition today of a warehouse facility that will help the food hub connect communities with fresh, local foods grown and raised by the region’s sustainable farmers and food producers.
Common Market Georgia is the first affiliate created by Common Market, the highly successful food hub founded in Philadelphia in 2008 and now serving the Mid-Atlantic region from New Jersey to Washington, D.C. Real estate attorneys from the Atlanta office of Ballard Spahr handled the warehouse acquisition pro bono for The Common Market, which purchased the facility for use by the Georgia affiliate.
"The new warehouse facility is going to allow us to fulfill our potential regionally in the Atlanta metro area," said Haile Johnston, Director of The Common Market, who co-founded the organization along with his wife, Tatiana Garcia-Granados, both graduates of the Wharton School, the business school of the University of Pennsylvania in Philadelphia. "With this long-term facility in place, we'll be prepared to meet the demands of the marketplace while working within the farm community to build capacity."
Modeled on the Philadelphia program, The Common Market Georgia connects wholesale and farm share customers, including businesses and institutions such as hospitals, schools, and universities, to sustainable farmers and producers in Georgia and the southeast region. The Common Market plans to replicate its model in other places around the country and started in Atlanta in large part because of demographic similarities to Philadelphia, including a metropolitan population center surrounded by agricultural areas.
The Common Market Georgia has been operating for the past five months from temporary quarters at the historic, city-owned Sweet Auburn Curb Market in Atlanta, but has quickly outgrown that space. The organization aggregates foods from about 40 regional producers and delivers to a variety of customers in the Atlanta area, including schools, hospitals, grocers, restaurants, and workplaces.
Ballard Spahr's assistance with the warehouse purchase is part of a firm-wide social responsibility focus on hunger and sustainable food, which has included, in addition to pro bono work, volunteer service at and donations to food-related organizations near many of the firm's offices around the country, including in Philadelphia, where the firm has its largest office.
Laura L. Seidel and Parker V. Stephens, Atlanta-based members of Ballard Spahr's nationally acclaimed Real Estate Department, handled legal aspects of the warehouse acquisition for The Common Market. The 60,000-square-foot building is in East Point, just across the Atlanta city line. It sits on four acres—land that is now being considered for development of greenhouses for use by area farmers to grow and store food products. As in Philadelphia, The Common Market Georgia aggregates and distributes a variety of food produced regionally from family farms using sustainable growing practices—from fruits, vegetables, grains, and beans to beef, pork, poultry, and eggs.
"It's remarkable how Ballard's focus on food access has played a role in helping us accomplish our mission in many ways, especially in acquisition of the facility," Mr. Johnston said. "The leadership and assistance of Laura Seidel and Parker Stephens have been invaluable. Ballard has been an incredible partner."