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Choo Choo Market derailed for a season

By Lisa Tindell

For those who had been looking forward to fresh vegetables and homemade treats from Brewton’s Choo-Choo Market vendors, the news isn’t looking good.

The 2020 season of Brewton’s Choo Choo Farmers Market has been cancelled in response to the COVID-19 outbreak, according to Connie Bagget, director of program management for the City of Brewton.

“After much consideration, it is in the best interest of the community to cancel the market this season,” Bagget said in a public post. “The safety of vendors and shoppers outweighs the benefits.”

The Choo Choo Market opened for the first season in 2013 with more and more vendors being added on through the seasons. Running under the guidelines set forth by the Alabama Department of Agriculture and Industries and the Farmers Market Authority certain rules and regulations have to be followed on an on-going basis.

“While the state authority had suggested ways to maintain a market, we consulted the local medical community who advised it was a public health risk,” Baggett said. “That was not a risk we wanted to take.”

The vendors who were typically in attendance at the downtown marketplace are all-local and are discovering other ways to provide their wares to waiting customers.

Greg Fleming, a local farmer who was a popular vendor at the market, says he plans to make his produce available even without the market.

“Even with the market being cancelled until next year, we still want everyone to be able to get fresh vegetables,” Fleming said “We are looking at doing weekly vegetable boxes and we’re guessing the price will be around $30. The prices will be based on fair market value for homegrown, number one fresh picked vegetables. We only do the best vegetables and won’t be including anything culled.”

Fleming said he hates to see the market canceled but understands the reasons. He said he wants to continue his business, especially since his garden was planted before the pandemic gripped the country.

“We plant field corn and sweet corn, cucumbers, tomatoes, zucchini, squash, cantaloupe, blackberries, green beans, red potatoes, bell peppers, eggplant, okra, canary and watermelons, banana peppers and peas,” Fleming said. “We would make the boxes a good mix of vegetables and rotate around each week depending on what’s requested and what’s ready for harvest.”

Fleming said he would make the boxes available for pick-up at his home in the north Brewton area or would deliver for an additional fee.

“When it gets vegetable time, I will start a preorder list,” Fleming said. “We want to do our part in offering fresh vegetables for our customers.”

One other vendor had made plans to be a part of the market again this year. Suzy Draper, owner of Suzy Q’s Bread had been looking forward to the opening of the market season, which was originally set for last Saturday.

‘As much as Suzy Q’s Bread was looking forward to the Farmers Market, we greatly appreciate the deduction the city has in keeping it’s residents safe and healthy,’ Draper said in response to the announcement of the market cancellation.  “We are always available for direct sales and pickup. We can even provide no-contact pickup.”

Baggett said that many of the vendors who have been a part of the Choo-Choo Market have ways of offering their items to those who want them.

To find information on vendors typically participating in the Choo-Choo Market, visit the Brewton Choo-Choo Farmer’s Market page on Facebook. You can also find Greg Fleming and Suzy Q’s Bread on Facebook as well and follow their offerings of items.