Sweet Home-Grown Alabama

“Good for the Soul” says the posters taped to the dozen white tents. Customers mill from one seller to the next as a lone guitarist croons the song, “Blackbird singing in the dead of night…” It is a smaller market compared to the last few weeks, but has plenty of options for those in search of healthy eating. In the digital age of technological efficiency there is little room left for the old-fashioned farmers or grown in the backyard produce that was the heartbeat of historic Alabama, but as “Going Green” makes a come-back so does education about the importance of natural agricultural.

Every Thursday from 3-6 p.m. a farmers market sells organic produce outside Canterbury Episcopal Church on 5th avenue near UA campus. Most of the buyers are UA students or faculty who come for a fresher and cheaper selection of vegetables, meats, eggs, fruits and more.

Bubbles Bailey, from Montgomery, AL, learned how to make soaps and lotions in 2006 by practicing homemade recipes. She quit her job working in an office to do it full time.

“I stopped worrying about fitting in the box,” she says.

She uses raw honey from her bee hives, goat’s milk and more to create skin care products that are healthy for your skin and natural. Bailey says she enjoys what she does and the freedom of working for herself.

“Being an entrepreneur, you just got to find what you’re passionate about. Don’t wait till you’re 50 yrs old like I did.”

Homegrown Alabama, a UA student organization, founded the market. Mostly a collection of 10-20 graduate and undergraduate students majoring in American studies, they are dedicated to reaching out and educating others on healthy eating and supporting the agriculture community. <http://homegrownalabama.ua.edu/&gt;

They have multiple programs designed to convince more people to shop at the market. Students can swipe their id cards and swap out their Bama cash for tokens that are used to purchase goods. There was also an EBT plan (Electronic Benefit Transfer which was previously called food stamps). EBT refunds an individual $5 for every $10 spent at the farmers ‘market, but depleted funds ended the program a few weeks ago.

Many students still do not know about the market or think that it is not worth their time to visit

Corinne Jones, sophomore, “I’ve heard about it. This year I’ve become more familiar with it, and I’ve seen it around, but not been.”

“No, I haven’t gone, but I’m going to starting this semester,” senior Hannah Waits says. She admits that she loves to cook and makes dinner 3-4 times a week, but she shops at big grocery stores.

Another drawback is that college students do not have the time, energy or experience to prepare meals.

“I cook maybe 3 or 4 times a month,” Jones says. “I usually don’t even get home till 11 at night.”

Quinn Rowe, junior in TCF, “I might die by the time I’m 40 because of how many quarter pounders I eat.”

It is the fourth year that the farmers market has come to campus. Lindsey Turner, assistant marketing manager for Homegrown Alabama, calls it the best year so far with 18-20 vendors consistently coming to sell their goods. Most farmers drive for 45 minutes to get to Tuscaloosa, and all but one attend other weekly markets such as Pepper’s Place in Birmingham.

After the market closes in October, Homegrown Alabama will begin to organize the market starting in May. They also will host film screenings at the Ferg with guest panels aimed to discuss plights facing farmers today and education on organic produce.

There are other groups on campus that also center on the environment. UA Environmental Council focuses on activism and tends to the community garden at the Arboretum. The Druid City Garden project is led by an Honors College professor Rashmi Grace and her UH 300: Food and Community class. <http://www.druidcitygardenproject.org&gt;

Though, not many of the vendors were affected by the tornadoes in April, Homegrown Alabama helped Grace replant the Druid City Garden after it was destroyed.

New College also has a farming project that teaches students about agriculture. UA offers other programs of its own such as a nutritional promotion where students can talk to dietitians about how to live healthier (for appointments call 348-2778). The university also instated Project Health, which is an organization that educates students on anything from alcohol and drugs to financial stability and suicide.  < projecthealth.ua.edu>

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