*This article originally appeared in Extension Daily*
AUBURN, Ala. – As the weather gets colder and the fall months push on, farmers market shoppers are left to question what is still available at their favorite markets. (Photo: Patrick Kuhl // Flickr)
Within the last few years, the nearly 200 Alabama markets have seen a dramatic rise in popularity.
Due to this increase, farmers are finding new ways to stay competitive and offer shoppers products year-round.
Tony Glover, Cullman county extension coordinator, says more and more farmers are planting fall crops to extend their marketing season as long as possible.
Available standard produce
The most common and steadfast product that is sold at farmers markets is produce.
While many crops’ peak-seasons end before the fall, there are still many products sold in the early winter months. Most common fall produce products are:
- Bell peppers
- Greens (kale, mustard, collard and turnip greens)
- Lima Beans
- Snap Beans
- Sweet Potatoes
For an extensive, year-round list, check out the following PDF.
New crops to try
While the availability varies based on the surrounding population, these uncommon crops bring something new to the classic farmers market.
“I would encourage farmers to engage these cultures in conversation and find out what they want to buy and start small scale production,” Glover said.
Products besides produce
Although some markets throughout the state continue to only sell produce, many markets are expanding.
For bigger markets in metropolitan areas, shoppers have seen a rise in small, boutique stores joining the markets.
Joe Kemble, an extension vegetable specialist, said, “these specialized stores boost foot traffic and draw people in. Having these options help expand clientele beyond the classic farmers market shopper.”
From custom cheeses and home-made jams to entertainment and chef demos, farmers markets across the state are expanding their target audiences.
Why buy locally
Shopping local keeps money in the local economy and supports local farmers.
The push to “buy fresh buy local” also encourages shoppers to buy the freshest products available at their local markets.
“It’s a way to keep money within an area,” Kemble said. “Most of the time we go to big box stores, and that money doesn’t stay in Alabama or impact the local economy, so we support buying local.”