Farmers Market opening this month
As the weather starts to warm, Farmer’s Markets are becoming more prominent in Alabama. People from all over the state are attending them to get fresh, homegrown, handmade goods produced locally.
So what exactly is a Farmers Market? It is an area, indoors or out, where vendors set up booths and sell fruits, vegetables, meats, crafts and more to the public.
The vendors at a Farmer’s Market are generally local, small scale farmers.
Common goods sold at a Farmer’s Market include many kinds of meats, vegetables, and fruits, as well as berries, baked goods, jams, jellies, plants, honey, eggs, cheese, flowers, soap, crafts and more. Usually, these products are grown or made locally and are often fresh, organic, and pesticide free.
Mary Stallings is the Chairperson of the Madison City Farmer’s Market.
“This is a very busy time of year as we are preparing for the market opening,” she says.
For small scale farmers, vending at Farmer’s Markets is a better option than selling to grocery stores. By selling directly to consumers, producers minimize profit loss by eliminating the middle man (the grocery store).
Morgan Wright and her husband grow produce on their farm, Eat Wright Farm, and then sell it at the Market.
“We plan this year to attend the Green Street Farmer’s Market… in Huntsville and the Madison City Farmer’s Market… in Madison,” she said.
Farmers also get the chance to hear what their customers have to say, such as what kinds of produce they like best or how the honey they purchased tasted.
“This information gathering… helps the farmer be on top of and meet consumer demand,” says Wright.
There are many reasons for consumers to buy at Farmer’s Markets as well. For example, produce available at the Market was most likely picked the very same day or the day before. This ensures that the product is fresh, nutritious, and was allowed to ripen to the peak of flavor.
“You are going to be getting peaches so ripe that they fall apart as you eat them, figs that would have been smashed to bits if they were sold using traditional methods, and melons that were allowed to ripen until the last possible minute on the vine,” said Stallings.
Excalibur 9th grader Margaret Carpenter goes occasionally to the Madison Farmer’s Market.
“We were interested in fresh produce,” she said. “The produce at the Farmer’s Market is so fresh and usually not sprayed with insecticides.”
Buying at the Market also benefits consumers in that they know where their food comes from, who grew it, and how it was grown. They can purchase products grown or raised humanely and without harmful chemicals.
“At the Market, the consumer wins in every way,” says Wright.
Buying at Farmer’s Markets supports the local community and economy. When you buy a peach grown locally, the money you paid for it stays locally. When you shop for peaches at the grocery store, the grocery store has to pay some farmer way across the country for those peaches.
“The more money left in the community encourages local growth,” says Stallings.
Doing your grocery shopping at the Market supports your local farmers, and encourages them to keep their land open, undeveloped, and in use for farming.
“I hate to see a farm or open fields go up for sold, because they generally become subdivisions within a few years,” says Stallings.
Farmer’s Markets also promote the local community. Farmers and consumers get to know each other, connections are made, and consumers can feel pride in their community and their farmers.
Wright said, “Markets act as a gathering place, a social environment and event where interaction is encouraged, safe and fun.”
“It has a relaxed family atmosphere,” Carpenter said.
Farmer’s Markets are a great option for both the consumer and the producer.
“Once you taste a just picked perfectly ripened heirloom variety tomato, you’ll never want grocery store tomatoes again,” says Stallings. “This doesn’t just apply to tomatoes, but pretty much everything that can be found at your local Farmer’s Market.”
So go local and head over to your local Farmer’s Market. To find one in Alabama near you, go to www.fma.alabama.gov , click on “Farmer’s Markets” on the left hand side of the website, and then click on the county you live in on the map that follows. A list of Farmer’s Markets in that area will proceed.