• 79°

Farmers market opens Saturday

Features Editor

Vouchers for free produce are in the hands of eligible Pike County residents and they are eager to spend them.

Diane Campbell of Campbell’s Farm Market said customers have been to her market hoping to spend their vouchers.

"People have come in wanting to spend their vouchers for butter beans, but we’ve had to turn them away," Campbell said. "We can only accept vouchers for produce that we grow. Right now, we only have squash, cucumbers and new potatoes

that can be purchased with the vouchers, but by the end of the week, we should have purple hull and blackeyed peas and little white peas."

Vouchers have been issued to those who meet age and income requirements as part of the Farmers Market Nutrition Program. The seniors’ supplement is a program of the Alabama Farmers Market Authority, which will bring the Farmers Market to Pike County beginning June 15.

The Pioneer Farmers Market will open at 7 a.m

Saturday at the Pioneer Museum of Alabama and those who have been anxiously awaiting this day are beginning the countdown to fresh produce for the dinner table.

Don Wambles, administrator of the State of Alabama Farmers Market Authority, said the produce that will be available at the Pioneer Farmers Market will be less than 24 hours off the vine.

"Most produce you get in a grocery store will have been harvested 10 days earlier or longer," Wambles said. "Shoppers at the farmers market will be able to get better quality produce for their money because of its freshness – and they will be supporting local farmers.

Wambles said between 12 and 15 producers from Pike and surrounding counties are expected to be at the Pioneer Farmers Market on opening day.

"The only produce that can be sold is produce that is grown by the vendor," Wambles said. "So, a shopper will be able to buy directly from the producer who grew the product."

On Saturday, shoppers can expect to find tomatoes, okra, cucumbers, peppers, cabbage, collards, sweet corn and a variety of squash.

"I know there will be zucchini and yellow crooked neck squash and a new variety for our area, Eight ball squash," Wambles said. "I’m not sure about peas. In the past two weeks, peas have been coming in from Geneva and Houston counties, so we could have some producers with peas. But, whatever there is at the farmers market will be fresh, good quality produce."

During the past couple of weeks, vouchers have been issued to those who are eligible for the Farmers Market Food Nutrition Program.

"Each person who is eligible will receive a one-time issuance of five vouchers for $4 each," Wambles said. "In Pike County, we will issue vouchers to 1,000 individuals. That’s $20,000 for residents to spend at the Pioneer Farmers Market or at Campbell’s Farm Market."

Wambles said those who receive vouchers are encouraged not to use them all at one time unless they are buying peas or some other vegetable to put in the freezer.

"Produce spoils quickly so it’s best to buy only what you can use at the time," Wambles said.

The Food Nutrition program is a supplement made available to those who are eligible for the program and it supports the Farmers Market, but for the market to be successful, Wambles said the support of the general public is needed.

"We want to encourage the general public to support our farmers by shopping at the Farmers Market," said. "The farmers market concept is growing because shoppers like to get fresh produce and a quality product. I’m not saying the prices will be cheaper than the grocery store. We don’t encourage farmers to sell for less because they have a better product."

The Pioneer Farmers Market will be open Tuesdays, Thursdays and Saturdays through November. Vouchers from the Farmers Market Food Nutrition Program may be used through October.

Campbell’s Farm Market will accept vouchers throughout the summer harvest season.