By Ann Cipperly
While East Alabama is fortunate to have year-round markets, weekly farmer markets during summer months provide more opportunities to feed your family fresh, nutritious produce, artisan breads and desserts, as well as other homemade food products. Home cooks and chefs rely on the freshest ingredients for creating flavorful meals full of freshly picked natural flavor. Locally grown vegetables and fruits offer more nutrients and fresher taste than those shipped from other parts of the country. Buying from local farms is also beneficial to the community, as it supports our local farmers.
Ogrows Open Air Farmers Market
Freshly picked vegetables and fruits, along with homemade bakery goods, honey, jellies, and other items can be found on Tuesday afternoons at the Ogrows Open Air Farmers Market on Glenn Street in Opelika. The market will be held Tuesdays from 3 p.m. until 6 p.m. through August 23. Farmers from East Alabama display their bounty of summer vegetables and fruits on tables under white tents. Along with a variety of produce, Serenity Farms and Bakery offers an outstanding array of homemade breads and assorted confections. Anna Freeman and Liana Freeman bake all day at their farm to provide freshly baked sourdough bread, braided French bread, whole wheat banana bread, cinnamon rolls, blueberry and lemon bread, assorted cookies, peach pies, and many other homemade desserts.
Mary Finley is also a baker and offers an assortment of yummy whole cakes and cakes by the slice. All of the cakes are freshly baked and well wrapped. Susan Forbes is the Ogrows market manager. Ogrows is an organization that engages students and citizens in gardening to address community service and food security. Ogrows is building capacity as a hub of local food systems by employing students, selling produce and donating produce to the Food Bank of East Alabama. Under the umbrella of Envision Opelika, Ogrows began in 2012. Susan’s husband, Sean Forbes, the founder of Ogrows, is a professor in education psychology at Auburn University.
The Market at Ag Heritage Park
Hosted by the Auburn University College of Agriculture, the Market at Ag Heritage Park is held on Thursdays from 3 p.m. until 6 p.m.
June 3-August 12. Each week about 30 vendors at the market sell fresh, locally grown fruits and vegetables, bread and baked goods, farm raised beef, chicken and pork, as well as jams and jellies. It is a growers-only market. Other items include herbs, ornamental plants, and cut flowers, as well as soaps, honey, and goat cheese, among other items.
“The Auburn Parks and Recreation Department partners with local growers and artisans for the city’s farmers market, City Market,” says Sarah Cook of Auburn Parks and Recreation. City Market invites the community, growers, and consumers alike to attend every Saturday from May 29 to August 28, plus one Saturday in October at Town Creek Park from 8 a.m. to 11 a.m.
“The purpose of City Market is to help local farmers, growers, and artists to sell their fresh, local and handmade products to com- munity members,” says Sarah. “Throughout the summer, we will have special programs and guests at the market.”
Opelika Farmers Market
Located on South 10th Street, the Opelika Farmers Market is a year-round market that has been open for about 15 years. Destin King’s father started the market, and he began helping his father when he was 15 years old. He took over ownership four years ago. The market has a wide selection of fresh produce. They grow produce or buy from other local farmers, making sure it is picked ripe, not green.
Tomatoes, peas, and peaches are the most popular summer crops. The fresh peas are available by the bushel or pound. To save time for customers, fresh peas are shelled daily. They also have peas unshelled. During the summer, the market carries local vine ripe tomatoes, while during the winter months he has a supplier in south Florida. Items in the refrigerator case include eggs and bacon, while the freezer case has frozen vegetables and biscuits. An assortment of plants are available in the spring, summer and fall. The market carries pecans throughout the year from their pecan farm in Notasulga. They offer shelled pecans as well.
Parkway Farmers Market
Located on First Avenue in Opelika, Parkway is a year-round market. Mitch Nix, the owner, comes from a 100-year-old family tradition of offering fresh produce. His great-great-grandfather started selling produce from a horse drawn wagon in Phenix City and Columbus, Ga. Mitch’s family operated a wholesale business for over 30 years then his father started in retail. Mitch helped his father in the business growing up. After college, he went back to work with his dad.
In 2009, Mitch opened the market on Pepperell Parkway. When he needed a larger space, he relocated the market to First Avenue in Opelika in June 2017.
While he purchases fresh produce from local farmers in summer, during the winter months he uses a source in southern Florida. “We offer vine
ripe tomatoes year-round,” he says.
He stocks fresh frozen vegetables from Birmingham and carries assorted frozen biscuits and orange rolls. He also carries Conecuh Bacon and Adams Cornmeal. Along with a wide selection of produce, the market has a variety of plants. In summer, he has an assortment of hanging baskets and potted plants.
SweetCreek Farm Market
The year-round market began over five years ago on Pike Road, off U.S. 231 in Montgomery. Along with being a farmers’ market, there is an adjoining barbecue café, which also serves homemade ice cream. Owners are Reed and Karen Ingram. Reed operates the café, while Karen manages the farmers market. Indoor and outdoor seating is available at the café. The barbecue was voted best for 2020 in Montgomery.
Along with fresh produce in the market, other products are available, including cakes, cobblers, grits, cornmeal and much more. Chickens, peacocks, and turkeys roam the market area and the event space on the side.