Jun. 11—PRICEVILLE — Prompted by campaign trail requests, Priceville has begun a weekly farmers market that an organizer hopes develops a street market ambience and enhances community ties.
Two vendors had booths Saturday at the first market behind the town municipal building, welcoming an estimated 50 customers who heard of the planned event through word of mouth and social media. The vendors offered fresh eggs, baked goods, frozen desserts and other items. The market will continue every Saturday from 6 a.m.-3 p.m. until Nov. 6.
Priceville mayor Sam Heflin said the idea was conceived during his and council members' election campaigns last summer.
"As we were running, we had people ask us why we didn't have (a farmers market) and would we put in the work to try to get one established," Heflin said. "We all agreed that there was no reason why we shouldn't have one."
Rosa Guaro, 36, a member of Priceville's Parks and Recreation board, then developed the concept for the market. Guaro is originally from Miami, where she enjoyed visiting street markets and said she wanted to bring that same atmosphere to Priceville.
"I was interested in having that local feel when you go to the market on a Saturday morning and you get a coffee and you walk around and explore," Guaro said. "That's kind of the culture that I feel like we'll end up going toward."
Guaro sells baked goods including Filipino-style breads and cakes like pandesal, a kind of doughnut mixed with cheese. She said visiting Morgan County's other markets has allowed her to connect with other bakers in the county and they have a feel she wants Priceville's market to emulate.
"We definitely want to have that community feel that Decatur and Hartselle have when (on) those farmers days, everyone brings out their produce and people share what they love to do at home and with their farms," she said.
Ashtynn Wheeler, 29, runs Hartselle-based farm Gusty Pine Acres and was the other vendor featured at Priceville's first market day. She said she appreciates the proximity of the Priceville market to her home compared to having to drive farther to Decatur.
"I did go to the (Morgan County-) Decatur Farmers Market, but I wanted to keep it in Priceville," Wheeler said. "I'm on the border of Hartselle and Priceville, but I'd call myself in the Priceville district, so I like to keep it in house."
Wheeler offered patrons maple bacon waffles and crunchy rainbow pop desserts on Saturday, but she said she sold completely out of fresh eggs.
"A few customers said they'd be back to buy from me again," she said, adding that she plans to consistently attend the Priceville market as a vendor.
Town officials said the weekly event has their full support as the market looks to continue over the next five months.
"I think it's going to be awesome for our community," said Shannon Weissand, town clerk.
Heflin said while many farms in the area are large-scale operations and sell products wholesale, he has seen a number of citizens take to individual, small-scale farming as well, justifying the appeal of a farmers market in Priceville.
"We try to do what our citizens and constituents want us to do," Heflin said. "It's a market of supply and demand and I think there's enough demand."
Don Wambles, director of the Alabama Farmers Market Authority, said he's observed a growing interest in the last 10 years among Alabama residents not traditionally farmers in knowing where their food comes from. This has led to steady openings of farmers markets across the state in communities such as Priceville, he said.
"I like to say people want to put a face to their food," Wambles said.
However, while about five to six markets open in the state each year, about four or five close, Wambles said. He attributed this largely to scheduling and anchor vendor issues, challenges he said new markets should be aware of.
"If you're going to say you're going to have a market on weekdays from 7 (a.m.)-12 (p.m.), is everybody working?" he said. "(Additionally,) most of the time those small communities may have small guys selling their products but not an anchor vendor that has a lot of variety."
The 2020 calendar year ended with 174 active farmers markets in Alabama, according to Wambles.
The Priceville Farmers Market will take place in the back lower parking lot of the town municipal building. At this time, vendors may sell only fresh eggs, produce or results from produce such as baked goods and jams to keep the event limited in scope.
"The main thing we're trying to make sure right now is that we don't end up with a yard sale-type situation," Heflin said. "We want to make sure it's a true farmers market"
Those interested in registering as vendors are asked to contact Weissand by 5 p.m. the day before the market to register, and there is no charge to do so.
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