Who would’ve thought a locally grown picnic was the break that four tired college students needed? In the midst of a pandemic and finishing senior research, it was nice to have a relaxed dinner together. We visited the Alabama Farmer’s Market next to our campus, Birmingham Southern College, to search for the perfect snack to contribute to the picnic. Lora brought an assorted fruit salad. Molly selected her favorite fruit, plums, while I made a salad with cucumbers, onions, and tomatoes that I got from the market and Emily fried okra from her garden at home! While we were eating, we had a long time to talk about the importance of farmer’s markets in populated urban areas like Birmingham.
You might be thinking that fruit and tomatoes aren’t in season in central Alabama right now, and you would be right. It turns out that the Alabama Farmer’s Market right next to school wasn’t as local as we had hoped. One of Molly’s plums had a “Chile” sticker on it, and I am fairly certain the tomatoes were from another state. We believe that the farmer’s market may actually be a local marketplace for excess grocery produce. So why have a farmer’s market if the produce isn’t necessarily local? We think it’s a way for inner city communities to have cheaper access to fresh produce, because even though the produce was marked like grocery store items, it was much cheaper than generic store prices. The Alabama Farmer’s Market is also in a part of town that is fairly industrial and has little access to green spaces. In fact, some parts of Birmingham are even advised against growing their own food because of soil pollution from nearby coal plants and industrial factories!
Our KAO chapter believes the Alabama Farmer’s Market might be a community driven program to give urban residents better access to fresh foods, and even though the food may not be as local as other markets in the area, we were happy to keep the market in business and ensure fresh food for the community near our campus.
The Urban Environmental Studies program at Birmingham-Southern College is committed to researching the intersection between environmental and social science. For us, that means supporting fresh markets in areas that can’t grow their own food, even if the food isn’t necessarily local. The biggest downside is that the Alabama Farmer’s Market will have a higher carbon footprint than other farmer’s markets if it really is importing and transporting produce around the state. However, the market also ensures that people in the community have access to fresh fruits and vegetables, which makes the community healthier and more self-reliant. While there are pros and cons to buying food from the Alabama Farmer’s Market, we decided it’s at least a step in the right direction to make sure that urban communities have equal access to fresh food.
Alabama Farmer’s Market Mu Students: Emily Wise, Molly McDaniel, Lora Dunn