The Tuscaloosa Farmers Market is a showcase of local products

Emma Margaret Thompson, Contributing Writer

Stands of homemade pastries, fresh honey, handmade jewelry and unique creations greet patrons as they enter the Tuscaloosa River Market every Saturday. 

The Tuscaloosa Farmers Market is an opportunity for students to experience a showcase of local products while they’re living in Alabama, helping them make the most of their four years in the Deep South.

The farmers market is often overlooked by Alabama football fans excited for game days, but regardless of the season or the sporting events, the farmers market is open every Saturday at the Tuscaloosa Riverwalk from 7 a.m. to noon, rain or shine.

Moved to the River Market in 2012, the farmers market has given exposure to local farms while giving consumers the opportunity to know the farmers and the source of their produce. 

The Tuscaloosa Farmers Market partners with over 70 vendors, including farmers, bakers and artisans from the Tuscaloosa area. On any given Saturday visitors can expect to see the same 20 or so vendors with the farm-fresh products changing based on the season.

Even during the height of the COVID-19 pandemic, the Tuscaloosa Farmers Market provided fresh, local produce to residents by offering a drive-thru market. Patrons drove by each vendor’s stand and shopped while staying six feet apart.

Azia Patrick, the assistant venue operations manager at the Tuscaloosa River Market, gets to spend two weeks every year going to the vendors’ farms and learning about their growing process and their land.

“Getting to know them on a personal level, that’s what’s enriching to me, because I had no idea how hard they work,” Patrick said.

In a primarily college-based town, it can be hard for students to plug into the Tuscaloosa community and get to know the local residents. 

With few students even aware of the market and even fewer able to will themselves awake between the hours of 7 a.m. and noon on a Saturday, it’s a rarity to see more than a handful browsing the local vendors on any given Saturday morning. 

Those students who do make time for the market don’t regret it. Some of them become frequent patrons and love the vendors with the fierceness of Tuscaloosa natives. 

Ellie Wiltanger, a freshman majoring in environmental science, said she first found out about the market through friends’ social media posts and has been hooked ever since.

“I am drawn back to the farmers market consistently because of the variety of products it offers,” Wiltanger said. “I love getting fresh flowers every week, and multiple vendors are always there selling flowers.”

Wiltanger said her favorite vendors are Poppin’ Sisters Popcorn & Treats and one of the artisan soap vendors. 

“I think the farmers market would benefit if it were open a little later. I know that most college students don’t like to wake up early on a Saturday morning, so if it could be open until 2 or something it would increase sales,” Wiltanger said. “I think [the market] could be better known to the students if there were special events advertised at the market.

Another avid farmers market patron, Morgan Igou, a junior majoring in fashion merchandising, said students could benefit from advance notice of the weekend’s vendors. 

“Oftentimes I’m looking for something specific, and if they aren’t there, I’m disappointed,” Igou said. “If they utilized social media, it could allow attendance to increase as well as media exposure.”

Igou said her favorite vendor is “the man who sells homemade bagels.” She is on the lookout for his everything bagels as soon as she gets to the market.

“I would like to thank all of those who work to put on the farmers market for giving local businesses the opportunities to gain exposure and to thank those who participate in it,” Igou said.

The Tuscaloosa Farmers Market acts as an outlet, allowing for one-of-a-kind interactions between providers and consumers. For years, the market has been providing a way to shop small and support local creatives. There is no better place to buy homemade cookies, local honey, and fresh, seasonal vegetables all in one place.