Spring is upon us, ushering in all kinds of new life. It’s time to get outdoors, dress your flower gardens, and partake of nature’s bounty. Farmers Markets are the perfect places to do just that. They offer shoppers the opportunity to buy fresh, homegrown produce, natural products, and a wide variety of plants to enhance yards. They are also great places to pick up handmade products produced by the finest local artisans and crafters. Let’s take a look at the best markets local to Calhoun County.
Farmers Market of Jacksonville
The Farmers Market of Jacksonville has already kicked off its season as of Saturday, April 1st. This fun, down-to-earth market that has helped grow activity on Public Square in the heart of downtown Jacksonville has moved locations this year. Its new home is the Public Safety Complex located at 911 Public Safety Dr. SW in Jacksonville (tucked behind the city’s Walmart complex). Hours of operation are 7 am – 12 pm every Saturday, rain or shine (unless the weather forecast calls for severe weather). It will have a long season, wrapping up the last Saturday in October, with a possible Christmas Market to follow up in December, shared the market’s manager Carol Miller.
This farmers market is certified under the State of Alabama authority, which ensures that the produce sold meets high safety standards and regulations. These types of markets are producer-only, meaning all things sold have to either be home-grown or homemade. Vendors share the space on a 70%/30% split, with food producers taking the larger percentage, and 30% being allotted to artisans and crafters to sell wares that they have created 100% themselves. In a season, the Farmers Market of Jacksonville hosts from 25-30 different vendors. It’s a great place for locals to do their food shopping, as well as pick up gifts, health and beauty products, and home decor.
Some of the items you’ll find at this market include fresh, locally-grown fruits and vegetables from carrots, potatoes, tomatoes, peppers and onions, to strawberries, apples, and peaches. Some vendors produce their own jarred and canned foods like culinary vinegar, bbq sauces, jams and jellies, nut butter, and even homemade granola. One can also find farm-fresh eggs, pasture-raised pork and other meats, and homemade frozen pizzas. Freshly baked bread and other baked items are favorites at this market, and it’s a great place to find outdoor nursery flowers and plants to incorporate in yards and planters.
Some of the crafters featured at the Farmers Market of Jacksonville sell jewelry, fresh soaps, and other bath products, and carved wood items like children’s toys, animals (owls), and birdhouses. Live entertainment rounds out the fun, with featured acts including duo Greg and Denise LaFollette, solo artist Adam Berry, and Joe McCrary. Carol Miller mentioned that while artists play for tips, they do pay their artists for sharing their talent.
The market likes to partner with one local charity per month, donating funds from a portion of the proceeds of the market to support their causes. In the past, they donated to JCOC which supplies backpacks and school supplies to children in need. They’ve also supported 2nd Chance, which aids victims of domestic violence, and Steel Magnolias, a charity that supports women diagnosed with breast cancer.
The Farmers Market of Jacksonville is open every Saturday from 7 am – 12 noon at 911 Public Safety Dr. SW in Jacksonville. For more information call (336) 709-6033 or email firstname.lastname@example.org.
The Anniston Downtown Market
The Downtown Market in Anniston, Alabama is a staple during the spring and summer months, opening this year on Saturday, May 13th, and wrapping up September 30th. Every Saturday morning between the hours of 7 am – 11 am, folks can browse through the wares of a variety of vendors, listen to some live music, or purchase hot food and beverages from local food trucks. While the market has had a couple of past locations (Zinn Park, or the lot in front of the Coldwater Brewpub), the biggest news is that Anniston Downtown Market will have a permanent location within the newly refurbished open-air structure at 126 West 11th St. This $800,000 project has created a lot of buzz and excitement for the Anniston community. Due to a few setbacks, the permanent space will be available for the market in June, according to Michelle Smith, the Downtown Market Manager. Till then, they will set up camp in the green space across the street at 11th St. next to Downing & Sons.
Like the Farmers Market of Jacksonville, The Downtown Market is also a certified farmers market under the State of Alabama Authority. They feature a 70%/30% split between fresh, canned, jarred, or cooked produce and food items, and original crafts. Some of the products one can buy are fresh, farm-to-basket fruits and vegetables like tomatoes, potatoes, peppers, okra, squash, strawberries, and apples. Local farm vendors that participate in this market include Mahon’s Single Acre Farm, PondeRosie Farm, Nanny’s Fresh Produce, Headley’s Flower Farm, Ireland Farm, and Umphrey’s Farm. Some vendors sell jarred jams, pickles and salsa, and even fresh eggs (duck eggs are one unique item you won’t find elsewhere easily). One of their return vendors is Eastaboga Bee Company, a prominent honey seller in Calhoun County and greater Alabama, and Ulti-Mutt Bakery, which creates tasty homemade pet treats. There are also plants and seedlings for sale, including decorative indoor plants like cacti. Local artisans display jewelry, wood carvings, pottery, health and beauty products, and more.
The Downtown Market allows food trucks to set up shop on the premises, and plans are that there will be allotted parking for them within the confines of the new physical structure. Some of the trucks one might expect to see are Bonnie Rae’s Bake Shop or Called Coffee Company. Another unique offering will be cooking demos, where area local chefs will set up a temporary kitchen and cook original recipes for folks to purchase. Michelle Smith shared that the hope is that in the near future, they will add a permanent outdoor kitchen within their shelter for these chefs to utilize for their demos.
More current news on this long-running farmers market is that they have come under the umbrella of Main Street Anniston this year, instead of the Parks and Recreation. This will benefit it by reaping more city support through city marketing and more. Main Street will also handle the booking of music artists that perform at the weekly markets. The market will be up and running Saturday, May 13th at 126 West 11th Street, Anniston, AL. For more information on The Downtown Market, call (256) 343-6560 or email email@example.com.
Market on Main
While Market on Main, Oxford Alabama’s bi-weekly market is not technically a farmers market, we wanted to give them a shout-out as being an excellent artisan and craft vendor market. Vendors set up shop at Simmons Park in downtown Oxford every first and third Saturday of the month from April to September during the hours of 8 am to 1 pm. Some of the items shoppers can purchase include baked items, candles, soaps, jewelry, books, home decor, and even boutique clothing items.
Historic Main Street Oxford sponsors the event under the direction of Hunter Gentry, and vendors are announced by the Wednesday before via their Facebook page. The third Saturday of each month, the Hartwell Masonic Lodge sponsors an Antique Car Show at the market. The market also provides a Kids Zone for youngsters with inflatables and lawn games. Folks that visit are encouraged to check out the local shops all within walking distance, have a cup of coffee at Southern Girl Coffee Roasting Company, or have lunch at Hubbard’s Off Main.
The next Market on Main takes place Saturday, May 6. For further information, email firstname.lastname@example.org.
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