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Choo-Choo market opens Saturday in Brewton

Need fresh ingredients for a special family dinner? Craving a little something sweet? Searching for a gift for that hard-to-shop-for friend?

Brewton’s Choo-Choo Farmers’ Market has itemsto meet those needs and more.

Each year, the market is held from the first week in April to the week before Christmas, with special events scattered throughout the year.

It opens Saturday.

Choo-Choo Market is open from 9 a.m. until 2 p.m. at Market Park, located at 205 Belleville Avenue, just north of the Bank of Brewton. Parking is available on Belleville Avenue and at the rear of the market area.

Market Park is also home to the popular “Brewton” mural.

Started in 2014, the market located in Market Park in Downtown Brewton offers a variety of goods including fresh fruits and vegetables, baked goods, honey, spice mixes, jams and jellies, and handmade craft items.

Connie Baggett, Director of Program Management with the City of Brewton, said the idea of a farmers’ market had been tossed around for several years before it became a reality.

“People wanted to start a farmers’ market here in Brewton. Things came together through the city’s tree and beautification board. Several members had visited other markets and wanted to see if we could do something on a manageable scale in town,” Baggett said. “I began researching, found a copy of and modified guidelines to would work for Brewton.”

The guidelines and a location were submitted and approved. The market was founded on the concepts of regional food production for fresh consumption, promotion of family farming, direct marketing of farm products, and the common good of all who participate in the market.

Baggett said location is a very important factor in the success of the market.

“The market was originally situated over in Jennings Park, but there, it did not have the visibility that it has here in Market Park.”

“The current location also provides easier access to visitors and vendors,” she added.

Choo-Choo Farmers’ Market’s location is also in the immediate vicinity of most downtown events.

Several musical acts perform at the stage located in Market Park through the year. Also, the market receives lots of traffic during the Blueberry Festival, which is also held downtown in June. Guests may visit the market’s extended hours during the Downtown Holiday Kickoff in November and following the Christmas parade in December.

For those interested in selling their wares at Choo- Choo Market, the process to become a vendor is an easy one. Baggett said individuals interested in selling should contact her via phone, email, or Facebook to reserve a spot during the week before the market. Vendors should also see the market’s Facebook page for a listing of guidelines, pinned for easier access.

“We require growers who are selling produce go to the Alabama Cooperative Extension Office where they will fill out a form and be given registration as a certified grower for our county. That way, as an incentive, we allow anyone who is a registered grower to get a space at our market and sell without any cost at all.

There are options for people who want to try selling at the market as opposed to selling the entire season.

“People can come and set up one week at a time or claim a spot for the whole season. Pay up front and that’s your guarantee of the spot the whole time the market is open,” Baggett said.

Vendor spaces are 10 ft. by 10 ft. Those selling are asked to bring their own table and white tent. Baggett said the market will work with individuals who might not have a tent.

“We have about 10 functioning tents that can be borrowed,” she said. Tents must be spoken for before the day of the market.

“We try to make the market as vendor friendly and shopper friendly as possible.”

The market, in addition to providing local craftspeople and farmers an outlet for their products, also serves as a small business incubator, Baggett said.

“The market gives people who want to start a business that option. People can set up and sell very inexpensively. People who do handmade arts and crafts can come there and sell while building their business up through farmers market.”

Another benefit of starting small at the farmers’ market is, as part of the State of Alabama’s farmers’ market legislation, the basic guidelines suspend sales tax from any purchases at farmers markets.

Future plans for Choo- Choo Market include an extended market.

“We have looked at a few buildings downtown that could facilitate a permanent indoor market. During this year, we hope to find a spaces downtown suitable for people who make high-end arts and crafts.” Baggett said. “We will have some permanent storefront space so people can shop arts and crafts vendors on more than just Saturday.”

Baggett said some possible items for the permanent downtown space and currently available at the weekly market include leather goods, knives, wood products like bowls and spoons.

“Come to Choo-Choo Market,” Baggett said added. “We have unique things you’ll never find anywhere else.”

For more information, visit the Choo-Choo Farmers’ Market page on Facebook, call (251) 809-1777, or go to www. cityofbrewton.org