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Come grow with us at Hartselle Farmers Market

Erin Elledge Burleson 
 

When I started managing the farmers market in 2019, I had big dreams.  

Hartselle has always had a market, but it was just a space to be used by the farmers at their convenience. In the past it was typical for farmers to show up early in the morning and sell the seasonal produce they had harvested to their community.  

Well, unfortunately for farmers, times have changed.  

Grocery stores ship in their produce from all across the globe, and it’s available now practically 24/7. Seasonal produce doesn’t really exist in the grocery aisles because it’s summer somewhere, and they can ship produce in the middle of winter.  

Modern conveniences have changed the way we shop for produce.  

Over time the farmers market in Hartselle dwindled down to a few local farmers in the summer, and many of our larger farms in the area started traveling to more populated markets in Cullman, Decatur, Madison and even Huntsville.  

Simultaneously, the people of Hartselle quit looking for produce at the market.  

When I volunteered to manage the market, this was my dilemma. How do I get more farmers to come back to Hartselle, and how do I get more customers to the market to support them?  

I’ve traveled to many farmers markets across the United States, and each one of them was filled with colorful produce on display, handmade arts and crafts, food trucks, bakers, musical entertainment and tons of people.  

What I noticed at these markets was how “fun” shopping for produce could be. It was so different from the grocery store. There were no fluorescent lights – only fresh air. Families were out, and children were playing, and even dogs were enjoying the farmers market.  

This is my dream for Hartselle: that the market will be not just a space for farmers to sell produce, but space for a community to come together and support local growers and crafters, to teach our young children where their food comes from, to connect with friends and the farmers who grow our food and, most importantly, to celebrate the season and all of the delicious, fresh produce that comes with it.  

This past Saturday was our second market day of the 2021 season. Usually the market starts slow while we wait for summer produce, but since our customer base is growing, we had a few farmers interested in selling their spring crops.  

As the market manager, I was nervous.  

It was early, cold and raining. The worst-case scenario is that no one shows up and the vendors wasted valuable time, and they probably won’t come back to our market.   

I couldn’t help but wonder, “Will anyone come to support these vendors?” 

Sure enough, the crowd came, and I got a tiny glimpse of my farmers market dream. Some braved the rain, and slowly, as the rain subsided, more and more people showed up! I was delighted, and all of the vendors were pleasantly surprised!  

One particularly exciting vendor, Champion Farms from Falkville, came with more than 50 gallons of strawberries, and they plan to return this weekend with more. Strawberries are in season right now, so it’s the best time to buy them for desserts, canning or freezing.  

Some other things you can find at the market this early in the season are fresh eggs, homemade sourdough bread, freshcut lettuce and mixed greens, gorgeous flower baskets, starter plants, homemade dog treats, handcrafted pottery and locally raised beef.  

This is only the beginning of the season, and the amount of produce available at the market is going to grow as the summer goes on. Come out and see us on Saturdays from 7 a.m. to noon, rain or shine!  

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