Market boosts church’s tie to community

When members of Camp Branch United Methodist planted corn and tomato seeds in their personal gardens this summer they didn’t expect the benefits the veggies would provide.

The women of Camp Branch opened up shop with a farmers market this summer.

“We weren’t prepared for the response — we had such a surprising turnout,” said member Debra Benson.

Benson said they started out with just extra produce from their own gardens in mid–July and then invited local farmers to set up booths. The last summer market was held Aug. 23 with everything from peaches, blueberries and figs from Boozer Farms in Chilton County to locally–produced sour wood and wildflower honey from Yellowleaf Creek Farm in Wilsonville and even goat’s milk products from Lowengrin Farms.

Each farmer pays a $10 vendor fee, which goes toward various church projects. Benson said the women’s group has since raised enough money to chip in on air conditioning repairs, as well as contributing extra money to their own ministries. The group supports Family Connection programs, an orphanage in Bolivia, the United Methodist Children’s Home, Heifer International and, most recently, began making baby clothes for newborns at Shelby Baptist Medical Center.

Benson said the market has really allowed them to get to know neighbors.

“Where we sit is a growing area and even though we are a smaller church, we felt the need to connect with our community,” Benson said. “We’ve all talked about how much we’ve enjoyed getting to know the people that come by the market, even if they don’t buy anything.”

Benson said the ladies plan to host a fall market in October. That event will include pumpkins and various fall produce. She said they also hope to expand the market next year with local artisans and maybe even musicians.

“We want to make this a true community event,” Benson said.

Plans are in the works to hold the bi–weekly events beginning in May next year.

For more information, call the church at 663-7513.