Homegrown Alabama allows students to purchase local produce with Bama CashBy Ashley Chaffin | 08/22/2012 8:35pm
The usually vacant grass lot at Canterbury Episcopal Chapel comes alive from 3 to 6 p.m. on Thursdays as Homegrown Alabama takes over the shaded plot of land.
Visitors can smell the freshly cut grass, as well as the herbs, soaps and vegetables laid out on the tables. They take in the sounds of a local musician as he sits on the back of his car playing a guitar and before you can even make it to the first vendor, it’s likely a young child with a painted face will run up to you with a homemade fortune teller, asking you to pick a color.
“I love the idea that this space is creating community,” Andrea Marby, a graduate student at the University of Alabama, said. “That’s why we have the music, the kids’ crafts, we even have chef demos sometimes – we try to do a lot of things here that help people stick around and talk to each other.”
This Thursday, as a way to welcome back the students to Tuscaloosa, Homegrown will feature a tie-dye station, chef demonstrations and a stuff swap, which will allows students to bring things they no longer want and swap them with another student who may have something they do.
“It is not just a farmers market,” Mo Fiorella, University of Alabama graduate student and market manager of Homegrown Alabama, said. “It is a place where people can come listen to music, hang out and have fun.”
The first Homegrown market was held during the spring of 2007 in the Ferguson Center Plaza. In the fall of that year, they held another successful market, which made them realize the need to expand into a bigger space.
“We started out with 10 vendors, some of which are here today,” she said. “They were all sold out in two hours, and it was supposed to be a three hour market.”
The first step to making the market what it is today was finding a new location. While in the process of looking, Canterbury offered their lot to Homegrown free of charge.
“This just sort of materialized for us. They let us use it out of the kindness of their hearts,” Marby said. “This is our space – we love it because of the trees and the grass.”
Now, four years later, the lot is filled every week from March until October with vendors selling everything from soaps to vegetables to homemade treats. As a way to make Homegrown accessible to the whole community, the farmers market accepts Bama Cash and EBT/SNAP by using a token system.
A customer paying with either method receives tokens representing the amount of money they plan to spend.
Among the sellers who come to Homegrown Alabama is a local caterer who has catered events for CBS Sports and ESPN – Snap Decisions Catering. Ann Gibson, the owner, runs her shop out of a converted convenience store.
“I started full time 12 years ago, but I had played with the idea a little bit before then,” she said. “I used to work at the farmers market under the bridge and sell my baked goods. It really just grew from there, from people asking me if I could make this or that.”
Gibson offers cookies, pastries and her most popular item, tomato pie. Besides Snap Decisions Catering, customers can find all kinds of locally grown seasonal vegetables, fruit, pork, natural Black Angus beef, baked goods, herbs, eggs and various types of cheeses.
The entirely student-run market is always looking for volunteers or members to join their team. Students interested should email for more information.