CULLMAN, Ala. – The North Alabama Agriplex always has an abundance of programs, and one happening every Saturday through October is the Power of Produce (PoP) at the Festhalle Farmers’ Market.
“This is our fifth year!” said Agriplex Director Rachel Dawsey. “It all started with AmeriCorps VISTA Rachel Wiser developing this program for the Festhalle. It is a national program that you sign up for and can use their logo and promotional material, but we actually organize it locally and raise the funds through sponsorship.”
According to the U.S. Department of Agriculture (USDA), the PoP Club originated at Oregon City Farmers’ Market in Oregon City, Oregon in 2011. The USDA reports that the PoP program has been put into practice at farmers’ markets throughout the nation.
So how does it work?
“PoP bucks” can be used to purchase fresh produce, vegetable or herb plants, peanuts or honey at the Festhalle. They cannot be used to purchase baked goods, processed foods, jams or jellies. The program is for children ages 14 and younger.
“The Power of Produce is a win-win program encouraging kids to attend the farmers’ market and try fresh vegetables and then the kids spend their PoP bucks at the market on produce,” said Dawsey. “This benefits the farmers with a little extra money coming in. The program entices parents to come also for a little extra spending money, or because the kids really want their parents to come. This year has been a challenge at Festhalle and other markets with the pandemic, but especially for the Festhalle because of all the road construction around the market. In non-pandemic times the kids try recipes made with fresh local produce and then receive PoP bucks to spend at the market. There are usually recipes and giveaways as well. This year to be no-contact, we are not giving out taste tests, but we do have recipes to hand out.”
The Agriplex hosts the program at the Festhalle every Saturday each month during the growing season, usually May through October.
“There is no signup; you just show up,” said Dawsey. “Look for the PoP booth. Come early because we only have a finite amount of funds to give out. We start at 8 a.m. and close by noon or when we run out of money. We have $4 of PoP bucks for 75 children right now. This may change during the season.”
The Festhalle Farmers’ Market is located at 209 First Ave. NE, Cullman.
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