News Saturday Morning Special

Saturday Morning Special

Saturday Morning Special
August 12, 2002 |

Folks who grew up in Alabama a half century ago likely can remember seeing farmers gathered around the town square on Saturday mornings, peddling anything from pole beans to hunting dogs. But as customers began to sacrifice freshness for the sake of convenience, Saturday markets were slowly replaced by superstores.Today, however, shoppers once again are discovering the joy of visiting a farmers market, thanks to revitalization efforts under way in the Lakeview district of Birmingham. Most Saturday mornings during the summer, Pepper Place Saturday Market welcomes about 2,000 customers.They come pushing strollers (and walkers) to shop among the 30 or so white tents, where local farmers proudly display their harvests. Many chat with the growers as they make their selections, while others take the time to enjoy a fresh-baked pastry or a cup of coffee. By the time they leave, most shoppers are laden with multiple sacks of fresh produce.Wanda Anderson, coordinator of the Pepper Place Saturday Market, said she’s been amazed how early people will come to the market in order to get fresh produce.”Our customers know that the vegetables and herbs have just been picked, and they are so much fresher and prettier than what you can buy in the grocery store,” she said. “People will come at 7:30 and have breakfast. They’ll buy their produce, listen to the music, and maybe even stay for lunch. Some of them stay all day.”Now in its third season, Pepper Place Saturday Market features weekly cooking demonstrations from some of Birmingham’s top chefs and live musical entertainment by local artists. Products for sale include everything from tomatoes and squash to organic honey and goat cheese.
Anderson said the cooking demonstrations promote the use of locally grown produce.”We are exposing our talented chefs and their recipes to the community,” Anderson said. “The demonstrations encourage customers to use Alabama-grown produce and herbs. They also give the customers a chance to talk one on one with the chefs.”Blount County farmer Danny Jones manages the farmers market on Finley Avenue in Birmingham, but his family also sells produce at Pepper Place. He said the new Saturday market has helped farmers at both locations.”It’s been a good thing for the big (Finley Avenue) market. Anytime you flood a market, the price goes down,” he said. “Pepper Place gives the smaller farmers a place to sell their produce, and it attracts customers who wouldn’t shop at the big market.”
Anderson enjoys the interaction between the customers and farmers at Pepper Place. “To get up at the crack of dawn for 18 Saturdays during the summer, you have to love it,” she laughed. “It’s incredible to me how hard these farmers work. Some of them drive three hours to be here and setup by 6 o’clock, then they go to the Finley market in the afternoon and back home to pick after that.”

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