AU’s Market at Ag Heritage Park is open

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By Kristen Bowman
Special to the
Opelika Observer

After a delayed start due to COVID-19, The Market at Ag Heritage Park opened last week. The Market is open from 4 to 6:30 p.m. on Thursdays.

The Market is an open-air, growers-only farmers’ market that operates each Thursday through the first week of August at Ag Heritage Park on the Auburn University campus next to Ag Heritage Park’s Edward L. Lowder Red Barn at 580-B South Donahue Drive. The entrance is on South Donahue, near the intersection of South Donahue and West Samford Avenue.

Hosted by the College of Agriculture, it features area vendors offering fresh, locally grown fruits and vegetables, herbs, ornamental plants and cut flowers, as well as locally produced jams and jellies, baked goods, soaps, honey, goat cheese and more.

“It’s been going on at least 10 years,” said Mark Foshee, research assistant in the Plant Science Research Center at Auburn. “This is the university helping facilitate local farmers and growers, as well as the public or the consumer—creating an avenue for the two to meet.

“We have a set of parameters we operate by, including that people have to grow what they sell. There are often vendors who attend a farmers’ market who didn’t grow anything; they bought wholesale at an Atlanta market and resell to the public. That’s not what we’re about. We want the local community to be able to buy local produce from Lee County and surrounding counties.”

To ensure the health and safety of the community, shoppers will be expected to observe social-distancing standards, which will be posted throughout the market. These include leaving pets at home, sanitizing hands before entering and leaving the market, keeping a distance from others in line, knowing what to purchase before getting to the front of the line and not touching any products that have not been purchased.

Foshee said The Market is “always a good time,” and will continue to be under the new standards. Because it is limited to locally grown produce and locally made goods, the merchandise changes throughout the summer, making each week a little different from the last.

The reopening of The Market marks one of the first public activities from the university since it adjusted to new operations following the COVID-19 outbreak in March. Foshee said he is excited to see activity on campus again and confident the event can run each week in a safe manner.

“We know that our community knows what’s out there, and they are smart enough to know how to handle themselves in an open, outdoor arena like this,” he said. “We’re really excited for the farmers too, to be able to make their money. When COVID-19 first came around, our gut instinct was to take a year off. But this market is, for some of these farmers, one of their main forms of income for the year. So we realized we needed to try our best to get it open. I think the university’s done an extraordinary job facilitating that, and the farmers are excited to be coming back—for a lot of them, this is home. They’re geared up and ready, as we are.”

More information about The Market is available at agriculture.auburn.edu/the-market.

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