Homegrown Alabama returns with new vendorsBy Emmalee Molay | 04/21/2014 11:00pm
Homegrown Alabama may look like the average college campus farmer’s market, but they are aiming to be much more than that, organizers said.
The student-led group behind the weekly farmer’s market at The University of Alabama targets farmers and vendors from around the area to participate every Thursday from 3-6 p.m. The market, which accepts Bama Cash, is located on the lawn of Canterbury Chapel on Hackberry Lane between Bryant Drive and University Blvd, and begins in the spring and runs through the summer until October.
Dabney Powell, co-manager for Homegrown Alabama is a junior majoring in student nutrition and said she is very passionate about the project that has been running since 2005.
“All of our vendors are local farmers, and by shopping at the farmers market you’re supporting them and that gives them the opportunity to do more marketing and keep money in the Tuscaloosa economy,” Powell said. “And you’re supporting local farming practices.”
Powell will serve her first full year as co-manager and she said that the more groups that are involved and come to support the market, the more unified vendors and community customers will become within the University program.
“Our market goal is to reach out to the student population,” Powell said. “We are hoping to have more involvement with other student groups in the fall. It doesn’t have to be anything food related.”
(See also "Homegrown Alabama to host Melon Festival")
The market already includes products from both farmers and local artists and artisans. One vendor that participates in Homegrown Alabama is not a farmer, but the seller of a homemade product.
Soapy Jones has been selling her handmade soap products from the Left Hand Soap Co. at the market for two years, although she has been crafting the product for 14 years.
“I think they’ve done an excellent job of educating the general community and the university student community about local produce, local goods, and local companies,” Jones said about Homegrown Alabama. “Also, the importance of focusing your money with fellow community members and buying such ingredients, and therefore having a healthier diet.”
Jones said that she has always had a great experience with the market and is looking forward to another year promoting her soaps to students, faculty and community members
“I think it had allowed us to reach people we wouldn’t have reached otherwise,” Jones said. “Every year the University brings in new students and new faculty and staff, and every year because we work with Homegrown Alabama, we are excited to keep doing it. We always have a lot of fun and really it’s a win-win all the way.”
Trey Harrison, a UA student who devotes his free time on Thursdays as a volunteer at the market, said the Homegrown Alabama is a great way to connect students with the community.
“The on-campus market is a way for students to be exposed to fresh produce and resources that are available locally without going through the national chain stores,” Harrison said. “Additionally, it puts you in contact with more tradesmen in the fact that not all of them are farmers. It benefits the students and vendors.”
Harrison said he enjoys the market himself because of the wide variety of fresh produce. He also hinted a new aspect of the market that will be available this year.
“One vendor that is coming will be selling free range chicken that he has farmed,” Harrison said. “That is our new big thing that we haven’t had in the past.”
Powell said people should come to the market because it allows people to know where their food is coming from.
“It’s more sustainable because it doesn’t have to travel however many miles to get to your plate,” Powell said.
She also said that the environment is more enjoyable because a large and diverse group of people shop at the market.
“It’s more fun than shopping at the grocery store and it’s cool that you get to interact and meet with the people who have grown what you are going to eat,” Powell said. “It’s an easy way to meet new people that have different qualities and a quick way to make new friends.”