Helena to open farmers market

The city of Helena will host a farmers market this year for the first time, said City Councilmember Cris Nelson.

“Some of the community members have been asking for this for several years,” she said. “There were several residents that contacted the mayor and said they would work on a committee to make it happen if the mayor would back it up.”

Once the committee met with the Alabama Farmers Market Authority, the Helena market was well on its way.

“They have been just instrumental in helping us put this together,” Nelson said of the Farmers Market Authority. “We’ve got eight farmers already interested in coming down. We’re very excited about it, and the community response has been huge.”

The market is tentatively scheduled to begin May 16 and continue at least through Labor Day. If there’s a late freeze or heavy rain, it’s possible the farmers’ crops will be delayed, so the start date may change. Also, if the farmers raise crops in the fall and have enough to sell, the market may continue past Labor Day, Nelson said.

The market will be held at Helena’s Amphitheater Park.

The farmers who will sell at the market are all within a two-hour drive of Helena and all committed to bringing the best product they can, Nelson said.

“You actually have to be the person to grow the product. You can’t be a reseller to come to our market,” she said. “The goal is to be able to provide a local market for fresh produce. Everybody enjoys fresh produce, and it’s hard to get it.”

Helena residents are looking forward to buying freshly-picked tomatoes, peppers, strawberries, watermelons and vegetables, she said.

“It’s going to be local. It’s not going to be something shipped in from California,” she said. “It’ll be something picked off the vine that morning or the day before. It’s going to be whatever is in season.”

Farmers will also sell baked goods, fresh honey and homemade jams and jellies.

For those interested in selling, there is an application process. A Web site, slated to be up and running within the next two weeks, will have an application form and more information about the farmers market. Vendors will be charged a booth fee.

Nelson said she hopes to see the market grow quickly and take its place as an annual Helena community event.

“Hopefully it’ll grow up to be our own little Pepper Place, like Birmingham has,” she said.