Student-run farmers market brings fresh food to campusBy Serena Bailey | 06/22/2016 10:24am
Tucked away on the lawn of the Canterbury Chapel Episcopal Church, a group of vendors set up shop to take part in something different: a student run farmers market located just outside of campus.
Homegrown Alabama is a University of Alabama based farmers market that brings together a variety of vendors from within 100 miles to sell produce, bread and other homemade items to UA students and Tuscaloosa residents.
“I think it’s just kind of unique,” Reid Mallette, one of the student volunteers, said. “This one’s just so conveniently located. It’s so close to campus and it is really special that it's student run, that students really support it and we all push it really hard within our communities and on campus.”
Mallette said she got involved through her friendship with one of the market managers, Mary Clay Kline.
“We had a farmers market in my hometown and it thought it was interesting,” Kline said. “I just started helping this year because she need the help. I really love it. I think coming every Thursday just to shop, you kind of get sucked into it because it’s just something that’s kind of unique in Tuscaloosa.”
Homegrown Alabama has been in operation since 2005 and some vendors, like Geary Hewett, have been coming since the beginning. Hewett and his father co-own Hewett’s Honey Farm and sell various honey products at the market.
“We had really just stared in business really promoting our product, and at the time, I was in school at the university and I heard about it and it sounded like a good idea,” Hewett said. “It has done our business a lot of good.”
As to why the market has endured so long, Hewett said he thinks it’s because of a growing trend of people being more conscious about what they eat.
“This is just one way for people to eat healthier,” he said. “It’s not only that you can buy vegetables and honey and other things, but you can meet the people that produce them. In other words, you know where your food comes from. You can put a face with your food. That’s something you can’t do at the grocery store.”
Reid Mallette said she enjoys watching not only new vendors, but new products come to the market as well.
“We always get really excited when the new stuff comes in season. First it's strawberries, then it's peaches. Our Chilton County peaches people just started coming three weeks ago so that’s still really new and exciting and now tomatoes are starting to come into season and then we’ll get okra. So each thing, there’s a buildup because you’re waiting and waiting and waiting for it to get ready and then it’s ready and then it’s here.
Mallette hopes that markets like the River Market and Homegrown Alabama encourage people to support local farmers and businesses and try fresh foods.
“I think it’s the kind of thing everyone should try at least once and I think once you try it, you’re going to love it and want to come back,” Mallette said. “It’s a wonderful atmosphere with the music and the friendly vendors and the friendly people that you see.”
Homegrown Alabama runs Thursdays from 3-6 p.m. and is located at 812 Fifth Avenue.