Cullman Electric Cooperative celebrates local farmers with Pop-Up Farmers’ Market

Dion Carroll with Joppa’s Greenleaf Farms had a bounty of fresh produce for sale at the market. (Heather Mann for The Cullman Tribune)

CULLMAN, Ala. – To help support local agriculture and grow more connected to the local farming community, the Cullman Electric Cooperative partnered with the North Alabama Agriplex to host a small, one-day farmers’ market. Featuring booths from Burks Farms, Thompsons’ Orchard, Greenleaf Farms, Idlewild South Farms and White Co. Farms, the market took place Monday morning and afternoon in the Co-op parking lot. 

Bonnie Baty, communications specialist for the Co-op, explained a bit about the market.

“This is what we’re calling a pop-up market. It’s just a one-day-only farmers’ market here at Cullman Electric Cooperative,” she said. “The idea came from Rachel Dawsey at North Alabama Agriplex. The Agriplex does a POP (Power of Produce) program for the kids where they come to the farmers’ market, try a sample of produce and get $2 to spend at the market that is reimbursed by the Agriplex. Her idea was to expand that program and try a corporate POP program – do it at an actual business – and so she approached us to see if we’d be interested and we jumped all over it. It was right up our alley.”

Baty said the market worked perfectly with the wellness incentives the Co-op offers its employees.

“We have a program where the employees can actually buy produce with the wellness incentives, but we knew that wasn’t enough to justify having the farmers come up here for only a hundred employees. So we decided to open it up to the public and let the farmers set up here and sell to the public as well as the employees.”

The market also provided the perfect opportunity for Cullman Farm-City to hold a fundraiser: tomato sandwich meal bags. For $5, guests could buy a brown paper bag lunch with a tomato sandwich (all components packaged separately to avoid serving soggy sandwiches), a bag of chips, a bottle of water and a treat; adding a second sandwich to the meal was an additional $2. All proceeds from the lunch bags went toward Cullman Farm-City programs.

Baty thanked the sponsors who donated the items for the lunch bags: Wallace State Community College’s Small Farmer Training Program and Will Burks from Burks Farms (locally-grown tomatoes), Warehouse Discount Groceries (fresh-baked bread), Chick-fil-A (salt, pepper and mayo) and the Morgan County Farmers Co-op (water bottles). 

When asked if the Co-op planned to continue holding pop-up markets, Baty said, “We definitely want to support our local growers. If this turns out to be something beneficial for them, we will certainly look at opportunities to do this in the future. We allow them to just come and set up at their discretion – no fee for a space or anything like that – and this is just something to do different, give them somewhere else to sell, especially during the peak season like this when everything is in abundance.”

Burks said his experience at the market was very positive.

“So far, things have been good. Several people have come through, and I figure since this is the first time it’ll be one of those things that nobody knows how it’s going to turn out. I see we’ve got a good variety of produce here, and so far everything’s been pretty good,” he said.

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​Idlewild South Farms – Melanie Byrd and Cole Byrd (playing the role of the Dancing Tomato)

Thompsons’ Orchard – Danielle Thompson

Burks Farms – Will Burks

Farm photography from White Co. Farms – Daniel White

Heather Mann