Oxford is holding its first farmers market in the J.C. Penney parking lot at Quintard Mall on May 11 from 8 a.m.-1 p.m.
Stevie McCord, who organized the market, grew up in her mother’s now-closed west Anniston grocery store — McCord’s Grocery — and said her mother always bought produce direct from farmers.
Learning the business from her mother, McCord said, she’s since started her own, buying direct from farmers and selling produce at farmers markets across the state and through a delivery service.
McCord said she decided to organize Oxford’s first farmers market because the city is “coming up. Oxford is the next big thing.”
McCord said she expects about 20 vendors to attend the first market, and said she doesn’t think there is such a thing as too many farmers markets in one county.
McCord buys from about 50 local and statewide farmers, getting her watermelons from Mobile, her peaches from Chilton County and her squash from Arab. There’s no shortage of growers looking to sell their produce, she said.
Oxford Lumber plans to start its own farmers market to be held each Friday, beginning May 3, at the lumber yard behind the store.
Katy Cairo works at Oxford Lumber and is organizing the market with help from McCord. Like McCord, Cairo said the more markets the better.
“I go to the one in Jacksonville fairly frequently, and so I’m excited as an Oxford resident to have one closer,” Cairo said.
McCord said both markets will operate on different days, so competitions for customers won’t be a problem.
“A lot of people are out doing things on Saturdays. In the fall we’ve got football so guys are going to be at home watching football. They don’t want to go to farmers markets,” McCord said. “But on a Friday after work, they might want to bring the family and see what they’ve got.”
Aliza Cummings, manager of the Jacksonville Farmers Market, said she’s not seen competition among the other established markets in the county, and expects the same when the two new markets open.
Cummings added the Alabama State Farmer’s Market Authority - a state agency that promotes farmers markets - encourages farmers to sell in at least two markets each week.
“So they’re not looking at us being in competition with one another. They’re looking at us to be beneficial to one another,” Cummings said. “I don’t think you can ever have too many farmers markets because I think what it’s really coming to are people are really truly getting an understanding of buying local, buying fresh.”
Cummings said she hasn’t been in contact with McCord about the Oxford market, and while she’s talked with organizers of the Anniston Farmers Market, she doesn’t feel the two are in competition.
“Jacksonville starts earlier, so we’ll get some of Anniston’s people early and then they’ll start going to Anniston for the few months that they’re open. Then they’ll come back at the end of the season,” Cummings said.
The addition of two new markets in the county seems to match a growing trend.
The U.S. Department of Agriculture began recording the numbers of farmers markets nationwide in 1994, and since then, that number has more than quadrupled, increasing from 1,755 in 1994 to 7,864 in 2012.
Southeastern states saw some of the largest gains from 2011-12, with an estimated 13.1 percent increase in the number of markets, according to the USDA.
Buying locally and developing relationships with the people who grow the food, is critical to market organizers and to those that shop at the markets, said McCord.
“That’s how you ensure what you get is good,” she said.
• Calhoun County Farmers Market: Runs throughout the year from 7 a.m.-4:30 p.m. Monday-Saturday. In the parking lot behind the county administration building at 1702 Noble St. in downtown Anniston.
• Jacksonville Farmers Market: In the park east of the Public Square. Saturdays, 7-11 a.m. from May 4-Nov. 23. Also open 4-7 p.m. on Mondays from June 3-Aug. 12.
• Oxford Farmers Market: Saturdays, May 11-Nov. 16 from 8 a.m.-1 p.m. Located in the JC Penney parking lot at Quintard Mall.
• Oxford Lumber Farmers Market: Fridays beginning May 3. Hours and more details to be announced on the company’s website, http:// oxfordlumber.com.
• Downtown Farmers Market: Run by the Anniston Parks and Recreation Department, this farmers market is held in Zinn Park in downtown Anniston. Usually opens in June. Details TBA.
Staff writer Eddie Burkhalter: 256-235-3563. On Twitter @Burkhalter_Star.