Since 2016, the Vestavia Hills Farmers Market, a ministry of the Vestavia Hills United Methodist Church, provides a friendly gathering space for the Vestavia Hills community and promotes healthy eating and living. The market is known for its crafts, seasonal goods and fresh produce, as well as the friendly faces of hardworking local business owners. The market lends a helping hand to those in need by using the participation fees paid by vendors to purchase fresh produce and provide it to the Vestavia Hills United Methodist Church’s food pantry.
As the team at Vestavia Hills Farmers Market prepares for its reopening set for May 12th, the team took some time to reflect back upon fostering community and allowing local businesses to flourish in 2020 during the height of the COVID-19 pandemic.
Jarry Taylor, who oversees the running and operation of the market noted that with the 2020 market season came difficulties and changes due to the pandemic and the health restrictions that came along with it.
“We were delighted that the State of Alabama decreed farmers markets to be essential businesses that could remain open to offer the public food and related items,” Taylor recalled. “To follow the State of Alabama Department of Agriculture protocols, we had to set up the market differently to allow only one way to enter the market, a divided aisle to prevent customer crossover, with one way traffic only and a dedicated exit out of the market. All vendors and customers entering the market had to wear a mask and socially distance themselves. We provided free masks, gloves and hand sanitizer to all who wanted them. We had to be more active within the market to ensure everyone was staying six feet apart and kept their masks on.”
It goes without saying that the crowd size decreased in 2020, with many individuals weary of getting out and about as COVID-19 ran rampant, but the pandemic was not quite as debilitating to the market as the team had feared.
“We were thrilled that the market thrived last year, despite COVID and all the extra precautions we had to take to operate the market,” Taylor said.
It is speculated that members of the Vestavia Hills community were willing to brave the pandemic last year because the Vestavia Hills Farmers Market is the only farmers market in the area. Over the last six years, it has become a beloved staple to the community, and it just wouldn’t be summer without the market.
“We believe we have had a significant positive impact on Vestavia Hills, both in a friendly place to come shop and see friends, but also in providing quality healthy foods,” Taylor said.
And after last year’s success against all odds, hopes are high for the Vestavia Hills Farmers Market in 2021. Vestavia Hills follows the State of Alabama protocols for COVID-19 protection, and as such, some of the restrictions that were upheld in 2020 will be lessened at the market this year, such as mask mandates and restrictions on the amount of vendors allowed to participate in the market season.
“Vendors and the public certainly can wear a mask in the market if they feel safer doing so—we will have signs in the market advising the public that masks are encouraged but not required,” Taylor said. “We are also thrilled at the number of new vendors who sought us out to sell their goods this year, as well as the expansion of our footprint in the farmers market arena to 25 vendors.”
The market is offering a wide variety of vendors this year, so there should be something available to suit even the most eclectic of tastes. This summer, you can expect to see fruits and vegetables, frozen casseroles and desserts, chicken and eggs, seafood, Greek food, snow cones and ice cream, kettle corn, peanuts, fried pies, olive oil and balsamic vinegar, candles, microgreen varieties, tie-dyed cloth and jewelry, natural dog treats, goat milk soap, lotion, bath bombs, flowers, coffee and even earthworms for composting and compost material. The market’s team is ecstatic to be hosting so many vendors this year, as supporting local businesses is a top priority of the Vestavia Hills Farmers Market.
“If you have a chance to buy from a local business, it is a way to lift up and support your local community,” Taylor emphasized. “If you have a choice, why not keep our dollars within our community?”
And if the increase of product variety and vendors isn’t enough to convince you to visit the market this summer, the State of Alabama recently designated the Vestavia Hills Farmers Market as certified, which means that it exceeds all of the qualifications and expectations for farmers markets in Alabama.
“We hope the market and its offerings continue to grow, as the space is available within the Scout Square site to easily fit over 40 vendors,” Taylor said. “We don’t expect to ever get as large as, say, Pepper Place, but we hope our market continues to thrive and to provide needed produce to Vestavia Hills United Methodist Church’s food pantry.”
The Vestavia Hills Farmers Market is located at 741 Montgomery Highway, Scout Square Vestavia Hills, AL 35216. It will be open to the public on Wednesday, May 12, from 10 a.m. to 1 p.m., and it will continue to be open for 16 consecutive Wednesdays at this same time until August 25.