Albertville Farmers Market (AFM) is pleased to announce the Sand Mountain Park & Amphitheater team has officially taken over operations of the market. It will remain at its current downtown home, 314 Sand Mountain Drive, in front of the train depot through the remainder of this season, before relocating to the park’s sprawling 133 acres effective next season, May 2021.
“We are extremely excited about the major potential this move has to greatly benefit both our farmers and vendors as well as our community,” Robin Lathan, former Manager of the AFM stated.
Managing the market over the last five seasons, getting to know and learning from the local growers who participate in markets all over North and Central Alabama, and attending market manager trainings around the state with the Alabama Farmers Market Authority, Lathan said it became obvious that the markets that thrive and are able to serve their communities at the highest and best level, are those that are considered “destination markets.” These are markets that people attend for more than one reason and markets that offer something for the entire family to enjoy when they visit.
“Sometimes it’s a spectacular view like the City of Guntersville’s Farmers Market, or its history— like Pepper Place Market in Birmingham, and for others like Ross Bridge Market, Mentone, or Madison City Farmer’s Market, it’s culture that makes that particular Market unique and special,” Lathan said. “We hope ours will bring an awesome mesh of all three components in the near future.”
Lathan mentioned she also learned that many of the region’s markets such as Guntersville, Gadsden, Cullman and others are managed and operated by the parks and recreation departments of their respective cities. According to Lathan, the market needs a driving force behind it that, together, can recruit new and recurring vendors, plan successful events that connect the community to the market, promote the market, and efficiently run its operations and logistics day of.
“The Sand Mountain Park team is the perfect willing and passionate team who will be dedicated to doing all of these things; and will strive to do them with excellence, and with the value of the customer and vendor experience in mind,” Lathan said.
Sand Mountain Park’s multiple playgrounds, 3.5+ miles of outdoor walking trails, dog parks, disc golf course, outdoor basketball and volleyball courts, gaga ball pits and additional amenities that will be free and open to the public, make it a perfect fit to serve as a multi-faceted destination for the farmer’s market where patrons will have a new desire to come to and enjoy with their entire family. The current plan is for the market to be held near the Signature Pavilion at Sand Mountain Park, which is located just in front of the Fitness Center building, providing ample parking and making it easy to locate. The Signature Pavilion is equipped with power for live music—a popular attraction at the farmer’s market in previous seasons — and is complete with restrooms as well. It is also located near the outdoor waterpark and Signature Playground, making it a prime spot for market shoppers to enjoy the beauty of all that Sand Mountain Park has to offer while supporting the same dedicated market vendors who have been committed to the success of the AFM since its restructure in 2015.
“An important part of our Mission at Sand Mountain Park is to dramatically improve the mental & physical health of our community,” Patrick O’Brien, General Manager at Sand Mountain Park, stated. “Having the opportunity to host, cultivate and grow the Albertville Farmer’s Market directly aligns with our Mission. Robin and the City have done a tremendous job of building this market, establishing valuable relationships with the vendors and engaging the community. We will work very hard to continue to build it and seek out additional ways to engage the community. This will be one of our staple events at the park and we are so excited to create one of the best market experiences in this region.”
For the remainder of the 2020 season, which runs from May through October, the Farmers Market will continue to be held every Thursday from 3 to 6 p.m. at the Downtown Market Pavilion located beside the Albertville Chamber of Commerce. Many members of the Albertville and surrounding communities have recently asked why the AFM is currently only open on Thursday afternoons.
“The AFM is a state sanctioned farmer’s market under the umbrella of the Alabama Department of Agriculture and Industries Farmer’s Market Authority, requiring all of our growers to be from Marshall County, or a county that touches us (Etowah, Blount, Dekalb, Jackson, Madison, or Morgan) and they must be able to provide the Farmers Market with a Grower’s Permit from their local County Extension Office certifying that they are the bona fide sole producer of the products they sale at our Market,” Lathan stated.
This means that when you shop at Albertville Farmer’s Market, you know your food wasn’t purchased from outside of this area or across state lines and brought in for resale. It also means your food hasn’t been sitting on a truck for days or weeks prior to making it to your kitchen table. All produce sold at the AFM is guaranteed fresh and is truly local to the Marshall County, Sand Mountain and North Alabama regions. Shopping at the farmer’s market also gives this community the opportunity to support local farmers directly. For 90% of the vendors selling at the AFM, farming is their livelihood and their only career, with some vendors attending five to 10 markets per week.
According to Lathan, it can be difficult for the city [Albertville] to compete with much larger Farmer’s Markets taking place across the state, on other days of the week, in which our vendors also participate. For this reason, Thursday became a good niche for the Albertville Market. One hope, however, in re-locating the market to the park, is that there may be other opportunities, through the multitude of musical, cultural and sporting events that will be hosted on park property, for market vendors to be able to setup from time to time on a day they normally wouldn’t operate. These dates would be “special market” events, announced season to season, and not necessarily ongoing or common.
Albertville Farmer’s Market can still accommodate new vendors who are interested in getting started this season. To apply to become a produce, meat, or “specialty vendor” (i.e. prepared food, craft, homemade artisan goods producer, etc.)—please contact Tyler May, Director of Entertainment and Events, at Sand Mountain Park by calling 256-891-8240 or via email at firstname.lastname@example.org so he can walk new applicants through the application, registration and welcome process of the AFM.
The farmer’s market operations team and its vendors would like to respectfully issue a friendly reminder to their guests and customers that the AFM does not open until 3 in the afternoon. Each week this season, there have been numerous visitors inside the Market Pavilion as early as 2 p.m. hoping to purchase delicious local produce from vendors well before the market opens. Many vendors travel from other markets outside the county on Thursdays or are commuting from their farms outside of Albertville and need this time from 2 to 3 p.m. to get properly setup and ready to sale for the afternoon.
Compliance with the state’s guidelines require Market vendors’ prices be properly displayed in front of all product, proper signage to be displayed on vendors’ tables who participate in state programs such as the Senior Farmers Market Nutrition Program (SFMNP), Snap, and more. With vendors also taking enhanced precaution to safely handle sorting and displaying produce prior to the market and trying to ensure they have the most attractive and organized setup for customers’ pleasure—the market asks that the public please respect vendors’ and staff’s prep time and allow them until 3 p.m. to open for business. Once all vendors are properly setup, with market manager approval, the market may open. The manager on duty will announce to vendors as well as the public that they may begin selling/purchasing.
The farmer’s market also asks, in light of increased sanitary measures being taken to ensure the safety of all patrons, that shoppers refrain from touching and handling produce and other food or craft items on vendors’ tables going forward. Guests are asked to point to items or communicate with vendors verbally in regards to what they would like to purchase. The vendor will then bag their choices for them as to make sure that no food is handled, then placed back on tables to be sold. Per the governor’s most recent health order, masks are required in outdoor public gathering places where a safe, six-foot distance cannot be maintained. The farmer’s market is doing their part to adhere to state guidelines and is encouraging customers to wear masks or wait to enter the pavilion until they are able to social distance from other Market visitors.
The AFM has been successful, thus far, this season in safely and efficiently funneling guests through the market in a quick manner to control the flow of traffic and allow for all customers to feel comfortable while shopping.
“Thank you for your cooperation and understanding of the Market’s rules and safety protocols,” Lathan stated. “Be sure to stop by the operations table and meet the friendly team at Sand Mountain Park on your next trip to the market. You are sure to see many familiar faces and will be introduced to several new faces, as well. The City of Albertville and Albertville Farmer’s Market are grateful for our strong partnership with Sand Mountain Park & Amphitheater and can’t wait to see the market grow and flourish, under their direction, at their world-class venue in the future.
“The mission of the Albertville Farmer’s Market is to support the development of local sustainable farming by cultivating a vibrant farmers market that serves as a community gathering place celebrating local farmers, food producers, and artisans,” she added. “We look forward to seeing you at the market soon!”