Ah, those salad farm-to-table days! It’s time to get fresh with the Farmers Market Tour!
No place has the “farm-to-table” movement been more prevalent than here in Birmingham. Heck, our chef celebre, Frank Stitt was doing the farm-to-table thing long before it was even cool. Now, there’s hardly a restaurant in the Magic City that doesn’t make some sort of fresh, locally-grown claim. And rightly so. After all, we live in the heart of the agrarian South, where a hop, skip, and jump from just about anywhere will put you in front of all the fresh produce you can imagine. In fact, by conservative estimate, there are almost 20 different farmers’ markets in and around Birmingham. Let’s take a tour of a few of them.
The Market at Pepper Place
Perhaps the best-known farmers’ market in the ‘Ham, the Market at Pepper Place began in 2000 as little more than a handful of tents in the middle of a parking lot at Pepper Place in the Lakeview neighborhood. It has since grown into a substantial attraction featuring everything from craft beverages to homemade baked goods, to (of course) produce. Here, rain or shine on Saturday mornings from 7 until noon the year round (during winter months, the market moves indoors), more than 100 vendors display their wares. Live music drifts through the throng as people wander amongst the tents that fill the parking lot of the Pepper
Place complex at 2829 Second Avenue South and spill over into the Martin Biscuit Building parking lot on 29th Street. Here, you can find everything from heirloom tomatoes to artisan cheeses, to farm-grown mushrooms, along with myriad handcrafted goods and food-truck noshes.
The Alabama Farmers Market
Since 1921, the Alabama Farmers Market, run by the Jefferson County Truck Growers Association, located at 344 Finley Avenue in West Birmingham, is the oldest farmers’ market in Birmingham. This old-school market runs year round, Monday through Friday from 6:00 in the morning to 3:00 in the afternoon offering up all manner of fresh, local produce. And if you tire of thumping melons, you can wander into the flea market and look for treasures.
The West Homewood Farmers Market
Every Tuesday evening from 5:00 until 8:00 in June, July, and the first week of August, the West Homewood Farmers Market fires up. At this market, in addition to fresh produce from local farms, you’ll find Birmingham’s favorite food trucks – Cantina Mexican fare, SAW’s BBQ, Heavenly Donuts, Old Town Pizza – and there’s also a variety of arts & crafts vendors. Live music fills the air along with the occasional gleeful exclamation of children at play. This is an awesome outing for the family.
The Gardendale Farmers Market
Starting June 18th, every Thursday from 9:00 a.m. to 1:00 in the afternoon (weather permitting) the Gardendale Farmers Market offers up fresh produce from local farms. Gardendale, (appropriately named, don’t you think?) is a bedroom community just north of the Birmingham city center on I-65. In addition to fresh produce, this market frequently features the wares of young entrepreneurs. For example, this year they will have two young ladies, Sofia (13) and Savanna (9) of “Sisters Go Bananas,” with their homemade lemonade popsicles and strawberry lemonade concentrate (both sugared and sugar-free). Or you can check out their newest young entrepreneur, Kid Bake, run by Shelby (10) and her sister, Nora Kate (7), and selling cupcakes and savory breads.
The East Lake Market
East of the city center, the East Lake Market is happening from 8 to 12 every Saturday in May through October. Enjoy local produce, gooey cinnamon rolls, savory cheese straws, coffee, honey, cheese, jam, relish, and much more. You can find this excellent market at the East Lake United Methodist Church on the corner of 78th and 2nd Avenue South.
The Valleydale Farmers Market
If you find yourself south of town, plan to stop by the Valleydale Farmers Market open every Saturday, beginning May 27 through the end of August, from 8 a.m. to noon at 4601 Valleydale Road. In addition to fare from local farmers, you’ll find jewelry, candles, hand made soaps, and a variety of other products.
… And much, much more!!
The above are but a smattering of the markets that pop up here in this part of the country like dewberries in the summer. You’ll find farmers markets at Ross Bridge, The Summit, over in Irondale, in Leeds (just a bit further east than Irondale), downtown at Linn Park , north of town in Pinson, and scads of others. Let’s face it, we grow farmers markets by the bushel. If you want to check out more of them, be sure to visit the Farmers Market Authority site, far and away the best guide for keeping it fresh this summer!