Wednesday, June 29, 2011

Grow Alabama, LLC

Grow Alabama, LLC
2301 Finley Blvd.
Birmingham, Al 35234
Founder Jerry Spencer

Wouldn't it be great if there was organization that purchased fruits and produce only from local Alabama farmers and delivered that same fresh produce to you for a reasonable price?Well guess what? There is! The main focus of this blog is to education you as the consumer about food sustainability in Alabama. Sustainability means buying food locally and putting money back into Alabama's economy.Grow Alabama is the organization that has designed a program to do just that.

The Purpose of Grow Alabama is reversing the ratio of foods consumed in Alabama to the foods grown in Alabama, thereby increasing the production and profitability of all Alabama farmers, enhancing the economic viability of all rural Alabama and bringing economic and environmental sustainability to the state as a whole. Not to mention providing the people of Alabama with the highest quality of food. The problem is that millions of dollars are lost in Alabama due to farm products being purchased out of state. Grow Alabama has put together a 6 step program to help rectify this problem. They have created an appropriate marketing venue and a crop plan. They have also expanded the number of farms participating and supporting the farmer's technical and labor needs. Grow Alabama is planning for success and creating success by expanding to other marketing venues as well.

As of right now, Grow Alabama employees and supports over 50 farms across Alabama and has around 500 customers that they deliver to weekly. 500 may seem like a small number but founder Jerry Spencer anticipates 50,000 in the years to come. Starting small is a smart way to start a project like this because it ensures that over or under production does not happen. The way works is simple. Go online and customize an order, there is even a grow chart avaliable to go by ensuring you get the freshest produce available. Simply choose from one of the three plans Grow Alabama offers and pay. You can pick your order up from one of the several locals around the state. Ordering for the week begins on Sunday's around 4pm.


Tuesday, June 28, 2011


2901 2nd Ave S
Birmingham, AL 35233

Nestled in the downtown Birmingham area, sits a restaurant called Bettola. At first glance, it may seem like any of the other dozens of upscale restaurants in the area, but, after close examination of the menu, it becomes clear that Bettola has sustainability in mind. The staff at Bettola strives to provide and maintain a high level of service and a high quality of locally grown herbs, produce, and locally raised meat. Bettola cares much about service to their customers; the staff is not only educated in the menu but also about the foods of the region so that they may be prepared to answer any question.

Similar to many restaurants that use organically grown food in the area, Bettola is known to purchase from Jones Valley Urban Farm. Bettola has for distinct menus that are available at various times: lunch, dinner, dessert, and wines. On each menu, local influence can be found. The Vegetali and the Isalata Toscana on the lunch menu use local eggplant and local greens, respectively. On the dinner menu, local garlic and oregano, young lettuce, and arugula appear in a variety of the dishes. Local strawberries make an appearance on the dessert menu in the Panna Cotta. Bettola uses local, organically grown produce and herbs in more ways than simply restricting them to food. Local herbs, such as lavender, bergarten sage, and honey syrup are used on the wine menu. It’s easy to see from the consistency of Bettola’s local food use that this restaurant has concern for its community and sustainable practices.

Bettola is open for lunch Monday through Friday from 11:00 am to 2:00 pm. Dinner hours are 5:30 pm to 9 pm Monday through Thursday and 5:30 pm to 10:00 pm Friday and Saturday. No reservations or call aheads are accepted. For more information, the email address is


United Way of Central Alabama

United Way is a food bank that collects food that might have originally gone to waste. The food bank receives fully edible food from many manufacturers, distributors, warehouse and storage operations, grocery chains and individual donors. All of this food is then distributed to local non- profit agencies and religious organizations that directly serve the needy through their own programs and community. People usually impacted and helped through this program are the elderly, women and children. Their purpose of United Way is to serve people in need by securing and storing surplus food and then being able to distribute it through local partnering agencies.

You can visit United Way's website if you are interested in becoming a donor. All non-profit organization are welcome; however, the IRS has to recognize you as a tax exempt organization first.

However, the websites address that if you live in the community and you are in need of food, shelter, clothing assistance or utility assistance, you can dial 211 from your phone and reach a United Way referral line or you can visit for a list of food pantries, soup kitchens and places that can deliver food to you if you are not available to go and pick-up.


Monday, June 27, 2011

BB's Bread

BB's Bread/Marta's Bakery
3936 Crosshaven Drive
Vestavia Hills, AL 35243-5470
(205) 969-2253

BB's Bread started four years ago out of Brenda Bates's, or "BB's," kitchen. For years, Brenda had been making homemade bread for her children. She decided to sell bread when her son, while eating some for breakfast, told her "Mom, this is so good you could sell it," and she decided that he was right. The very next day Brenda, who was an elementary school teacher at the time, approached her principal about selling her bread to the other teachers. "And the rest," she says, "is history!"

Brenda has sold exactly 8,300 loaves of bread to date. She has sold bread at no less than 30 Farmers' Markets throughout Montevallo, Calera, and Helena over the years. She also sells her bread at both of Andy's Vegetable Markets in Hoover and Vestavia. The Piggly Wiggly in Montevallo carries BB's Bread, as do Buck Creek Market in Helena and Marta's Bakery in Cahaba Heights, where BB bakes her bread. She is the proud owner of exactly 166 bread pans, and has baked that many loaves in one night before. "BB" feels her bread business has been an incredible blessing, as well as a way to minister to others. "This opportunity was entirely a God thing," she says. "I used to be a school teacher. Now I'm baking bread."

BB's Bread is absolutely delicious! You can buy a loaf at the Montevallo Farmer's Market for $5.00. I thoroughly recommend the cinnamon-sugar bread; it's the perfect breakfast.


Calera Farmers Market


Calera Farmers Market
Oliver Park
9758 HWY 25
Calera, AL 35040

The Calera Farmers Market is one of the grandest small town farmers markets out there. In 2010 they were voted winner of the Americans' Favorite Farmers Market and won Market of the Month by the Alabama Farmers Market Authority. They're summer season lasts from June 7th through August 30th from 3:00pm through 6:00pm every Tuesday. The market is very well known and has Facebook and Twitter!/CaleraMarket pages so you can keep keep up with what's new. The Calera Farmers Market has a wide array of vendors they use every Tuesday, including: Chapel Farms, Knight Farms, Cheeky Maiden Soaps, Dixon Family Farms, Caver Farms, Boozer Farms, Shepherd Family Farms, Todd's Produce, and Nana's Herbs.

Chapel Farms was the first farm to link up with the Calera Farmers Market. They have a website They are a family farm that sells okra, corn, peas, and much more. Knight Farms, located near Thorsby, Al, is a family farm as well. The Knights sell tomatoes, zucchini, onions, and much more. Cheeky Maiden Soaps doesen't sell fruits or veggies, they sell 100% all natural soap. They were founded in 2006 and make all of their soap right in their own kitchen. Dixon Family Farms is located in Chilton County just south of Calera; they sell collard greens, cabbage, sweet potatoes, and many more. Caver Farms, located in Autauga County, farms over 200 acres run by a brother and sister team.They sell peppers, beans, cantelope, and much more. Boozer Farms is also located in Thorsby and is family run as well. They sell mainly fruits like nectarines, blueberries, persimmons, and lots more fruits. Shepherd Family Farms is located in Brierfield and all about their chickens and turkeys. They sell lots of eggs. Todd's Produce located in Clanton, Al started out as a restaurant. They now sell peaches and plums. Nana's Herbs is located in Helena, Al and sells a variety of herbs.

So come on down to the award winning Calera Farmers Market and have tons of fun!


Pawpaw's Garden

Bobby Sammons, Proprietor
31888 Hwy. 31
Calera, AL 35040
(205) 668-3222

This week I did not have any particular location in mind, so I set out on Highway 31, a great detour betwixt Montgomery and Birmingham and a prime spot for local businesses. This is a really pleasant road for any sort of day trip anyone might want to take, with local businesses and produce stands lined up all throughout the area. I was lucky enough to stumble upon Pawpaw's Garden, a distributor of local produce in the Calera area.

Mr. Sammons has operated his business for the past two years out of a converted garage beside his house. He distributes fresh produce bought from the Finley Avenue Farmer's Market in Birmingham, as well as the wares of individual farmers at their request. His shop also sells birdhouses (which he makes himself) as well as some candy and junk food, though he stated that his customers tend to prefer his selection of foods harvested in their area. His reason for performing this public service is admittedly boredom; like many distributors of local produce, he desired an occupation upon the event of his retirement and chose to make a business out of a personal hobby. Situated as he is on such a high-traffic road, he says that he is glad to spend his days talking to passersby from all over the state and country who wish for a bit of fresh food in their kitchens.

His prices on local produce are shown below, and are the most flexible of all local distributors I have interviewed thus far. He also makes a habit of selling the same produce in containers of differing sizes:

Cantaloupe: $2
Watermelons: $4-$5
Corn- 6 for $3
Yams- (About) 10 for $3
Onions- (About) 8 for $1.25- $2.50
Peas- $4
Beans- $4
Zucchini- $3

Of note, Mr. Sammons sells all his peas and beans at the same price, shelled or unshelled, as he spends his down time during the day shelling and refrigerating his selection. He has also put a lot of work into making his location as homely as possible by inserting a ceiling fan, some comfy furniture, a television, and designating a spot for playing chess.

-Aaron T

Heath's Produce Stand at Pit Stop

Pit Stop Parking Lot
4700 Highway 119
Montevallo, AL 35115
Contact Person: Heath

I am sure everyone has driven by the Pit Stop gas station at Moore’s Crossroads on a Friday and wondered about all of the great looking produce under the tan umbrellas and in the big white cargo truck, set up on the corner of Highway 119 and Highway 22. We all have thought about stopping for some fresh fruits or veggies; some of us may have actually stopped and talked with Heath, the gentleman who runs this little produce stand. While having a great conversation you were getting bargains on his goods.

Heath is from Chilton County. He and his family previously farmed and sold their produce, but he decided to change the pattern and began buying and reselling fruits and vegetables on a weekly basis. On Monday he goes to the Alabama Farmer’s Market ( for a load of fruits and vegetables. Then on Wednesday, he goes to the Chilton County Farmer’s Market for more produce. On Friday morning, he will stop by Sugar Hill Farms in Verbena, AL where he tops off his selection with tomatoes, peaches, plums, squash, and beans; from there, Heath travels to the Pit Stop and sets up for the day.

Another unique aspect to Heath’s stand is the variety of Amish goods he has for sale. These items are from an Amish sect in Middlesburg, Ohio. Heath acquires the goods from a dealer in Vincent, AL and sells them at his stand. Among the Amish goods available are: cheese, butter, canned fruits and vegetables, jellies and jams, as well as several types of cider including apple, muscadine, and peach.

Heath’s stand is ideal for those who cannot make it to the Montevallo Farmer’s Market on Monday and who do not have transportation to travel to Birmingham to the Alabama market. His stand offers a large variety at affordable prices. Heath offers all of the above goods, as well as bananas, apples, peppers, onions, peas, and potatoes, plus cantaloupes and watermelons.

The next time you are heading out of town on a Friday, stop by and check out some of the Amish goods and great produce.


Spradlin Farm

Spradlin Farm
2105 County Rd. 1242
Vinemont, AL 35179
256- 734- 6419

Spradlin Farm is a bit of a drive from Montevallo, but well worth the trip. The farm is located in Vinemont, AL, about an hour-long drive from Birmingham. A visit to Spradlin Farm has much to offer, but for those who can not make a trip out to the farm, their wares can be found at the Pepper Place Market in downtown Birmingham from 7:00- 12:00 on Saturdays. (More information on Pepper Place Market can be found on a previous post here: The farm's hours are 8:00 am to 6:00 pm every Monday through Saturday from April through the end of August. They are closed on Sundays, and hours are subject to change during farmers' market season, so be sure to call ahead of your visit.

Spradlin Farm is owned by Doug and Sue Spradin. The farm offers a variety of produce and baked goods. You can expect to find strawberries in April, blackberries in June, and blueberries from June to July. They also offer a large selection of peaches from June to September. New varieties of peaches are available every two weeks including Red Haven, Georgia Bell, Spring Gold, and many other favorites. The produce selection is in season from June through September and includes tomatoes, squash, beans, peas, peppers, okra, and much more. Occasionally, Spradlin Farm offers reduced, “you pick” prices on certain items as they are available.

In addition to all the fresh produce to be found on Spradlin Farm, they offer a huge selection of homemade goods as well. Selections include fruit turnovers, cookies, breads and cakes, fresh salsa, relishes, and more. They also make homemade ice cream with flavors like strawberry, peach, chocolate, and vanilla. With so much to choose from, a visit to Spradlin Farm is well worth the drive. You're sure to not be disappointed!


Thursday, June 23, 2011

Brierfield Cafe

Brierfield Cafe
19717 Hwy 139
Brierfield, AL 35035

Contact: Joann Blackwell

In a world of fast food restaurants at every turn, it is nice to find a gem like Brierfield Cafe. Located just outside of Wilton, on Highway 139, Brierfield Cafe is housed in a small simple building, nestled in a stand of trees. If you are not looking, you might drive right by it. If there is a wait for a table, which one should probably plan on, you can sit in southern charm and comfort on the front porch's rocking chairs. Inside there is one room with booths and tables, giving a homey and enticing atmosphere. When you are here to eat, you will probably run into your neighbors, fellow church goers, and possibly even family. Brierfield Cafe has food for everyone!

This little restaurant is a great place for some down home cooking. Not only does the menu offer a variety of sandwiches, salads, and plates but the weekly specials are the best around. You cannot beat their meat and two for lunch Wednesday through Friday. On Wednesdays either chicken and dumplings or chicken and dressing is served; Thursday customers find either beef tips and rice or cubed steak and gravy; Friday is fish day and steak is available Friday and Saturday. Along with these great entree's, the cafe offers a range of vegetables, bought weekly from the Alabama Farmer's Market, located in Birmingham on Finley Avenue. Brierfield Cafe offers people a chance to go out to eat and still feel like they are getting as a nutritious a meal as they would cook in their own kitchen. The restaurant offers a list of seasonal fresh vegetables, including a southern delicacy: Fried Green Tomatoes.

Brierfield Cafe opened in 1996 as a barbecue grill out front of the current building. Joann Blackwell and her sister-in-law, Joann can both be found in the kitchen to this day, cooking up the best food found in the Brierfield area. Each of them realize how important it is to offer a good hearty meal made not only from fresh local ingredients but also from the heart.


Wednesday, June 22, 2011

JDarby Farm

JDarby Farm, LLC
13650 Hwy 17
Montevallo, AL 35115
Contact: Joyce Darby

Open on Saturdays during harvest season

Open the first Saturday of the month outside of harvest season

Appointments are welcome for a small fee

If you have driven down Hwy 17, just after turning off of Hwy 22, you have probably noticed the farm on the left with the maze-like fencing and wondered what it was. That fencing is only a tiny portion of Joyce Darby’s ingenuity on her seventeen acre, organically certified farm. The farm focuses on sustainability with a solar powered barn, 300’ well, and irrigation pond. The barn is built is an Amish style and is currently under renovation to be handicapped accessible. Ms. Darby has owned the farm for eight years and has worked the past two years to set up beds for medicinal herbs. One of her main focuses is to work with the oncologists at UAB to push the medical field in stressing the importance of eating well. Currently, an expansion has taken place on the farm, and Ms. Darby has cultivated 12,000 feet of the land to concentrate on not only medicinal herbs, but also basic vegetables and culinary herbs. As a result, JDarby Farm sells crops every Monday at the Montevallo Farmers Market.

During harvest, the farm is open every Saturday for the sale of fresh vegetables and herbs. Some vegetables to look for this season: potatoes, beans, peppers, cucumbers, okra, romaine lettuce, beets, many different varieties of tomatoes, and more. Soon the community supported agriculture program will be available at JDarby Farm. Those who participate will be able to choose from the vegetables in season. JDarby Farm, LLC is worth checking out, either for some organically certified herbs and vegetables, fresh eggs, or just a fun day down on the neighborhood farm. Outside of harvest season, anyone can visit the farm on the first Saturday of the month.

JDarby Farm also has an array of animals that love visitors. The farm family is made up of draft horses and riding horses, llamas and alpacas, chickens, two breeds of goats: Nigerian Dwarf and Nubian, donkeys, and J.R. the mini-horse. The animals play a large role in the farm's sustainability. They are moved from paddock to paddock in three week cycles not only to help their own livelihoods but also to aid in fertilizing and "browsing" the land.

Joyce’s goal is to make JDarby Farm a “neighborhood farm” that will be open to visits from local schools and the community. Ms. Darby also has plans to make one of her greenhouses a learning center for horticulture therapy, with a focus on injured veterans. Joyce Darby is still in the process of evolving the farm to fulfill its full potential. Once she is done though, she says, “We’ll be kicking ass!”


Limestone Park Blueberry Orchard U-Pick

1456 Limestone Parkway
Brierfield, AL(205) 926-9672 (Call ahead of time to make sure they're ripe!)

Nestled pleasantly in Mr. Charles Williams' private property in Brierfield, Limestone Park has always been a nice little haven for anyone wanting to take a relaxing swim, tubing run, or canoe trip down the Cahaba. However, for those whose days require a little bit more than completely unfettered relaxation, they should feel free to show up either very early in the morning or very late in the day to pick blueberries from Mr. Williams' orchard.

His orchard is just a short drive back from the entrance of the park, with about seventy-five bushes growing wild behind a fenced-in enclosure. All interested parties should wear shoes and pants, as ants are a small but annoying issue, and can expect to have the fruits of their labors bought back from Mr. Williams at the price of five dollars for every gallon picked, or can keep every other gallon picked for themselves. Not only does your work yield you a substantial bit of pocket change, it also ensures that local produce is available to the Montevallo area, since Limestone Park sells their berries to Lucky's Foodland.

Initially, I set out on Wednesday morning ready to sell all my harvest back, but I quickly learned that I have a very inadequate conception of how many blueberries it takes to fill a gallon. I spent two hours picking on Wednesday and wound up with only about two-and-a-quarter gallons. So, even though I was stuffed from all the berries I couldn't stop eating, I decided to take all but a gallon back with me.


Tuesday, June 21, 2011

Ida's Country Kitchen


Ida's Country Kitchen
4781 Highway 25
Montevallo, Al 35115

Ida's Country Kitchen is a new restaurant in Montevallo serving up some old-fashioned favorites! If you crave southern home cooking at reasonable prices, this place is for you. Ida's is a family owned business run by Jeffery Ammos and his wife, mother, son and friends. He actually graduated from high school with me. He has no formal culinary training; however, he loves food and cooks it well.

Ida's is open Monday thru Wednesday from 6am-3pm and Thursday and Friday 6am-8pm. They are closed on Saturday and Sunday. You can dine in or carry out if you like. Breakfast starts at 6 and ends at 10:30. Breakfast plates include the 2 egg plate where you get 2 eggs, bacon or sausage, hash browns or grits and a biscuit or toast for only $4.25. Other items on the breakfast menu include omelets, pancakes and french toast. Also, the biscuits are homemade and served to-go any way you'd like. For lunch, meat and 3's are all the rave. Daily specials include an entree of the day with 3 sides, and lunch specials include meatloaf, pot roast, catfish, country-fried steak and chicken-n-dumplings (which might I add are almost as good as my grandmother's chicken-n-dumplings). Sides include cole slaw, onion rings, potato salad, fried okra, side salad, fries or the vegetable of the day like green beans or squash. You can also get fresh, homemade hamburgers, chicken sandwiches, BLT's, hot dogs, grilled cheese or even a fried bologna sandwich with mustard! My son adores the grilled peanut butter and banana sandwich. Ida's is also doing fresh homemade desserts daily!

After talking with Jeffery, I learned that he is purchasing all vegetables from local farmers markets and buying his meat from Lucky's right here in town. He attends the local farmers market every Monday and shops in Clanton for fresh peaches and strawberries for the desserts. By purchasing local, fresh ingredients, Ida's is able to charge less money for items on their menu. Jeffery says he wants people to be able to get a lot of food for a great price at his restaurant, which I think is great considering that food is so darn expensive these days. If you haven't tried this place yet, you are really missing out. It truly is down home cooking, right down the street with amazing prices.


The Pepper Place Market

2829 2nd Avenue South
Birmingham AL 35233

Pepper Place Market is where farming families in the region meet up every Saturday morning from April thru December and bring their vegetables, flowers, breads, cookies, cakes, pies and honey to the city of Birmingham to sell. In addition to farmers, bakers and beekeepers being at the market, there are musicians playing on stages as well! There is also a cooking demonstration at 9:00 am every Saturday morning by some of Birmingham's finest chefs.

The Pepper Place Market is open April 16-December 17 2011 from 07:00 am til 12 noon. During the spring season, you can pick up seedling and young plants for your vegetable and flower beds. Summertime is time for you to come by and pick up your peaches, tomatoes, okra, peas, squash and blackberries- all farm grown by local farmers. Fall in Alabama is a wonderful time for squash, beets, broccoli and pumpkins. You can also pick up freshly grown root vegetables and some hearty tomatoes late in the season. Great holiday gifts are also offered during the fall months from some of the finest local artisans.

You can visit Pepper Place Market's website for a list of market dates, activities, performances, and cooking demonstrations. If you are a vendor interested in setting up on Saturday mornings, you can also visit their website for additional information.


Organic Harvest Market, Cafe and Nutrition Center

1580 Montgomery Hwy #12
Vestavia Hills, AL 35216
Organic Harvest Market is a family owned organic market in Vestavia Hills. They offer great prices on organic foods and always have the newest products available. (You can get organic whole wheat bread for $3.19 or an uncured pepperoni pizza for $4.99) Organic harvest is a full service organic grocery that sells produce, meats, dairy, and fresh breads. You can visit their website, for a list of promotions and sale prices. Organic Harvest Market supports several crop and dairy farmers in the community. They are actually the only local place that sells Wright's Dairy milk products (which is a dairy farm located in Alexandria AL that raises their herd of cattle all naturally and with great care.) The milk is not like anything you have ever tasted!! Organic Harvest has a complete array of organic and alternative dairy products as well.
Organic Harvest also offers a nutrition center that sells supplements, protein powders and medicinal herbs and teas. Come in and see their helpful staff that has over a 100 years experience to help you achieve a healthy life.
Organic Harvest is also home to Birmingham's only totally organic cafe, smoothie and juice bar. They offer many unique wraps, salads and soups. Visit their website for a complete menu and store/ cafe hours. Don't forget to purchase your organically grown bottle of wine!


Jones Valley Urban Farm

701 25th Street North
Birmingham, AL 35203
(205) 322-0542

Skyscrapers. Traffic. Asphalt. When driving through a crowded, urban city like Birmingham,
AL, the last thing someone would expect to come across is a farm. At 701 25thStreet, however, that is precisely what you’ll find. Jones Valley Urban Farm is a non-profit organization that grows organic produce and tries to educate its community about healthy food choices, urban farming, and sustainable gardening and farming methods. By transforming three areas of unused, vacant property in the downtown area into a fertile farm-like area for growing produce, Jones Valley Urban Farm has put itself right in the middle of the hustle and bustle of everyday life in the attempts to be noticed by a wide range of people. The farm looks exactly as you'd expect with rows of produce planted in a repeated pattern. Instead of being surrounded by a vast acreage of green, however, the farm is surrounded by tall city buildings.

The produce and flowers grown at the farm are sold at several places in the Birmingham area. The produce is sold directly at Gardens of Park Place Farm Stand, Mt. Laurel Farm Stand, Pepper Place Farmers Market (, and Mt. Laurel Farmers Market ( Other major carriers of Jones Valley Urban Farm are Highlands Bar and Grill, Bottega, Little Savannah, Stones Throw, Hot and Hot Fish Club, Whole Foods, Market, Oak Street Local Market, and many more. From this list it’s easy to see that Jones Valley Urban Farm is contributing to the food community of the Birmingham area.

Jones Valley Urban Farm tries to educate the community in addition to serving it. Some of the educational programs offered by Jones Valley Urban Farm are an Agriscience program for high school students, field trip programs, adult workshops, nutrition programs, internships, and sustainable agriculture. These are just a handful of the efforts being made by Jones Valley Urban Farm to reach out to the community. For more information and a complete list of programs and carriers of Jones Valley Urban Farm Produce go to, call (205) 322-0542, or email at


Monday, June 20, 2011

Dixon Family Farm

Dixon Family Farm
Bennie Dixon and Family
101 County Road 365
Clanton, AL 35045

205-299-6357 – Bennie Dixon
334-376-9878 – Rodney Dixon

The Dixon Family Farm is owned and operated by Bennie Dixon and his children, Rodney, Rosalyn and Karla. Their farm resides off County Road 365 in Chilton County, Alabama. Their farm, open year round has many different varieties of vegetables and produce for sale.This month of June, they have squash, pink-eye-purple-hull peas, tomatoes, different melon varieties, and other vegetables including cabbages and cucumbers. All of their produce is freshly picked and packaged for sale throughout numerous farmers’ markets in and around the Birmingham area.

Bennie and his son, Rodney, typically handle the planting and harvesting jobs of the farm, while daughters Karla and Rosalyn assists in packaging the produce and transporting it to sell at different markets. Since, the freshest produce is chosen for sale, they plant and harvest according to each vegetable’s growing season. Within a summer growing season, the Dixons will grow lots of produce to meet their demanding market schedule. Almost daily they have truck loads of produce ready to be sent to surrounding markets.

On a typical market day, the Dixons will have three produce trucks at different areas. They can usually be found on Monday evenings at the Montevallo Farmer’s Market, in downtown Montevallo and on Tuesdays they are at the Calera Farmers Market, which is approximately less than ten miles from Montevallo residents. For the remainder of the week they are at the farmers’ markets in Sylacauga, East Lake, East Chase and Homewood all near metropolitan Birmingham.

Bennie Dixon is also a member of the Alabama Farmer’s Market. To become a member of this association, one must be a grower and farmer that harvest their crops within Alabama. The Alabama Farmer's Market is a wholesale distributor for produce in Birmingham. If a person needs fresh produce and a market is not open or near, the Dixons will take orders by phone and will make arrangements to fulfill those needs. Typically, orders are made for customers who plan on purchasing bushels of vegetables, such as peas. Arrangements are made where the customers can come to the farm in Clanton or meet the Dixons at a local farmers’ market.

Dixon Family Farms offers the freshest vegetables they can possibly offer, grown right from the dirt at their home in Clanton, Alabama. They make produce not only easily available for Montevallo residents, but for the urban areas of Alabama, which are less accessible to fresh homegrown produce.


GraBuck Farms

GraBuck Farms
14 Berry Ln
Pelham, AL 35124

GraBuck Farms is a homey welcoming place to come. It is a farm with gorgious views of land and plants. This farm is run by a man named Dave Buckley who is a lovely gentleman that loves his property, he is an old fashion and kind. The farm offers a blueberry, blackberry, and raspberry u-pick garden. It now mainly operates of blueberries alone; Dave says his blackberries and raspberries have unfortunately died off. The farm is very large with only about twenty blueberry bushes and some muscadines. It is possible to get a few blackberries but you would have to come very early in the season. His blueberry u-pick season lasts from the first of June to mid July, that's when he feels that his crop is at its best. He also has muscadines as well but with their season around September, it is just too difficult for him to open a u-pick in that season.

Dave waters all of his blueberry plants by well water on a drip system. He operates under a honor system and has had some of the same customers for up to a decade. His blueberry plants are also that old and some are even up to 20 to 25 years old. When I was there the bushes when some of the biggest it have seen. Dave doesn't advertise because he feels that he gets by on his loyal customers, and by the time he gets his advertisement in the paper his season is already over. He dosen't grow his fruit organic but he also dosen't put anything on them either; he is a all natural person you could say. Not only are Dave's blueberries delicious but also the cheapest in the area. Dave sells his blueberries for only a dollar fifty a pound. what a deal!


Lyon Blueberry Farm

Lyon Blueberry Farm
1700 Hwy 56
Wilsonville, AL 35186
205- 669- 9205

Lyon Blueberry Farm is a U-Pick located in the Four Mile Community between Wilsonville and Columbiana. The farm opened this year on the second week of June (but this date is subject to change from year to year) and operates from 7:00 am to 6:00 pm every Tuesday through Saturday for the duration of the summer.

J.T. Lyons opened his farm up as a U-Pick blueberry farm almost nine years ago. The first one-hundred blueberry bushes were planted by J.T., his wife, and his daughter. Now the farm has expanded to include over 1,500 bushes ready to be picked every summer. J.T. and his wife still run the farm today. When going to pick blueberries, Lyon Farm encourages the whole family to join in. They only ask that appropriate clothing is worn (dress for the high temperatures of an Alabama summer) and that children are watched. The U-Pick has seven varieties of blueberries to offer laid out in neat, well-maintained rows. The blueberry farm also uses a natural irrigation system to keep the berries healthy and ready to pick no matter the weather conditions. They also provide customers with picking buckets for their berries and charge $10 per gallon bucket of berries.

Though the U-Pick blueberries are the main attraction at Lyon Farm, it is not all they have to offer. They also have blackberries and vegetables available for picking. The vegetables offered include watermelons, tomatoes, okra, butter peas, and pinkeye purple hull peas. In addition to all the fruits and vegetables, the farm also has boxwood shrubs ready dig up and take home, sold for $20 and ready for landscaping.

For more information, as well as directions and any updates, check out the Lyon Blueberry Farm website at


Sunday, June 19, 2011

Morgan Creek Vineyards

Morgan Creek Vineyards
181 Morgan Creek Lane
Harpersville, AL 35078

Morgan Creek Vineyards was founded in 2000 by Charlie and Mary Brammer, along with their son Charles. This family-owned and operated winery proudly creates and sells wines "made in the tradition of the Old South." Although they specialize in muscadine wines, Morgan Creek features a variety of nine wines made from several different types of fruit, including peach, blueberry, and blackberry. They also have a U-Pick blueberry patch, where you can pick and eat the very same berries used to make their famous blueberry wine.

When the Brammer family set out to start a vineyard in Alabama, they decided to play to a preexisting niche in Southern American culture: muscadine wines. Because grapes are so difficult to grow in the South, we Southerners have been using muscadines as a substitute for generations. Examine any family tree with deep-south roots, and you’ll probably come across a great-great-someone who specialized in making homemade muscadine wine.

Because muscadines originally grew wild in Alabama, they were an easily accessible, cost-efficient alternative to the grape. Although grape-like in color and shape, muscadines have thicker skins and a more robust flavor than most grapes. Muscadine wine tends to be sweeter than grape wine.

But the Brammer family wants to take their product one step further than great taste: they want to celebrate the health benefits of wine too. According to the Brammers, fruit and vegetables grown here in Alabama's enriched soil have higher levels of antioxidants than imported, store-bought produce. In fact, recent studies show that muscadines contain five times more antioxidants than other kinds of grapes.

As a member of the Alabama Wineries Association, Morgan Creek is just one of several family-owned and operated wineries striving to emphasize the health benefits of wine. The Brammer family is very passionate about their product and their vineyard, and they want you to enjoy it too! Morgan Creek is a beautiful, family-friendly place to enjoy an afternoon. The atmosphere is incredibly welcoming, and the wine is delicious (and good for you too).

Morgan Creek Vineyards will have several events throughout the growing season, the dates and times of which can be found at Pack a picnic, or take advantage of the on-site catering, provided by Full Moon Bar-B-Q.


Thursday, June 16, 2011

Sunshine Farms

Contact information:
for pricing and hours of operations

for commercial or retail sales

Sunshine Farms is a family owned business located in Clanton, AL operated by the Durbin Family. Sunshine Farms sells tomatoes of various varieties, peaches (between 15-20 varieties), and strawberries. The tomatoes are usually harvested from June-November, the peaches from May-August, and just give them a call to find out when strawberries are ripe.

The Durbin Family has been growing peaches since the 1940's, and the family business has been passed down from generation to generation. The farm first started out with only 10 acres, 2 mules and hand labor. It has now grown to having over 500 acres of peaches, a custom nursery timber harvesting operation, a custom tree planting operation, and also a seedstock cattle operation all which covers and additional 2500 acres. The farm now employs more than 60 workers!!

Sunshine Farms also operates a U-Pick strawberry patch on the premises; however, make sure to call before you come to make sure the patch is open. There are picnic tables on the premises so you can bring lunch and make a day of it or if you like. Pre-picked strawberries are there for the purchase as well.

Sunshine Farms can also handle commercial and retail sales of their peaches. They can sell to you by the truck load or by the box. Just give them a call and then pay them a visit at the packing shed.

ALL Sunshine Farms' fruits are wonderful and ripened to perfection; however, Sunshine Farms takes great pride in their peaches. The peaches are only harvested after it reaches its full muturity. The peaches are perfectly ripe and mouthwateringly juicy. Be prepared to make a mess!! .

The Farm also operates a U-Pick pumpkin patch in the fall, usually opening around October. This pumpkin patch is located in Mulberry Creek Homestead. It offers all kinds of activities for the kids such as a corn maze, gem stone mining, and horse and wagon rides. They can book reservations for groups any day of the week, just give them a call.


Andy's Market and Nursery

Andy's Market and Nursery
124 Mars Hill Road

Hoover, AL 35244

Andy's is a bright and vibrant place in Hoover with a variety of fruits, vegetables, and plants. Some fruit being peaches, strawberries, blueberries, etc. Some veggies being squash, okra, corn, etc. Some plants being roses, hedges, and other flowers. Although the nursery is open on Sundays, the market is not. The nursery is bright and open outdoor space while the market is indoor airconditioned building.

The owner of Andy's grew up on a farm in southern Alabama, and after finishing college decided to open up a market, which later turned into Andy's Market and Nursery. They carry a wide variety of fruits and veggies. Whatever is in season that local farmers grow but occasionally have to venture out to Florida and other states to get whatever won't grow in that particular season. They carry tomatoes, squash, okra, lettuce, peaches, orange, and anything else you can think of. The fruits and veggies they either get from local farmers or other states aren't organic. What makes this market special is that you not only can buy fruits and veggies to make wonderful recipes, but there are also flowers and hedges to make your lawn the envy of the neighborhood.

Andy's has three locations through the Birmingham area. There is one in Hoover, and two in Vestavia, AL. The original Andy's is located at one of the Vestavia stores. Those addresses are:

3351 Morgan Drive
Birmingham, AL 35216

2489 Rocky Ridge Road
Birmingham, AL 35216

Their hours are Monday through Saturday 8am to 6pm, and Sundays 12pm to 5pm. The Hoover store is a market and nursery, the Morgan Road store is only a nursery, and the Rocky Ridge store is only a market.


Bottega Restaurant and Cafe

2240 Highland Avenue South
Birmingham, AL 35205
(205) 933-2001

It’s easy to think of growing and buying locally as a messy process when compared to the corporate method. The image of an individual farmer growing food with the help of a few employees and then throwing the food haphazardly into a basket to be sold does not necessarily inspire. This image is beginning to change as more and more places start looking locally for their supplies. Certainly, the corporate method is organized, cheap, and fast, but quality can occasionally be questionable. This is not to say that big businesses are selling spoiled meat and produce; moreso, it is to say that local farmers that rely entirely on their product to survive will put more effort into to creating their best product because its all they have. For this reason, more and more restaurants and grocery stores that appeal to every walk of life are buying local and organically grown food.

Bottega Restaurant and Café, a restaurant on the upscale end in Birmingham, chooses to buy locally whenever possible. One area Bottega frequently purchases locally grown food from is the Jones Valley Urban Farm in Birmingham. Many of the dishes that include tomatoes,cucumbers, basil, and other forms of produce include items grown at the farm. The farm is a nonprofit organization that invests in the community by educating people on sustainable practices while engaging in those practices themselves. The phrase “we strive to use sustainably, humanely raised meats and produce whenever possible” appears at the bottom of the café menu to express this desire and practice to the customers.

The restaurant is divided into two distinct sections: the dining room and the café. In the dining room, the atmosphere is a bit more formalized and the food quality is a bit higher. The café has a more fun atmosphere that welcomes customers to stop in and have a drink when their day is starting to stress them out. Of course, the price reflects this difference. The average price for a main course in the the dining room is about $27.50 with sides being an extra $5; as opposed to the café, where the average price is about $12.75 including sides. Reservations are recommended for the dining room but none are necessary. The café has a less formal atmosphere and has faster accessibility to customers. Reservations can be made over the telephone or online as early as a month in advance and gift cards can also be purchased online at The Bottega Dining Room is open from 5:30 PM to 10:00 PM Monday through Saturday and the Bottega Café is open from 11:00 AM to 10:30 PM Monday through Saturday.


Petals From The Past

Petals From The Past
16034 County Road 29
Jemison, AL 35085-4680
(205) 646-0069

Petals from the Past started as a little roadside stand where an Auburn grad named Jason Powell began selling antique roses. But Jason quickly outgrew his roadside business and created one of the region's premier sites for local food, heirloom plants, and fruit trees as well as sage gardening tips for the would-be green thumb. In 1994, alongside his wife Shelley and his father Arlie, Jason bought some land and opened a homegrown, family-run establishment that we now know as Petals from the Past.

Although renown for the beauty of its antique roses, Petals from the Past features a nursery full of heirloom plants as diverse as they are plentiful: full, snowy white hydrangeas and fiery Mexican paintbrushes, to the most delicate orchid and bright tiger lily. There are entire rows of fragrant herbs, a greenhouse devoted to succulents and cacti, and acres of U-Pick gardens filled with different kinds of fruit and vegetables.
Trellises run all over the grounds, each section home to a different fruit: muscadines, kiwis, blackberries, and blueberries. There are clusters of peach trees and fig trees, Asian pears, persimmons, and satsumas. Apple trees circle the outskirts. There is an entire greenhouse of citrus fruit. The produce at Petals has no cover-spray of chemically protective coating; you can eat it right off the vine, sun-warm and deliciously fresh. There is a certain sort of freedom in walking through trellises heavy with fruit and being able to pick it, to get sticky juice on your fingers, to let the berries burst in your mouth. There is a reality to this that transcends the grocery store, the plastic packaging and pesticide and the genetically-perfect tomato. This fruit is cultivated, but it maintains some sense that everything in the U-Pick once came from a wild plant, from the natural world. If nature had a grocery store, this would be it.

For store hours, events, and the U-Pick harvest schedule, check out their website:


Wednesday, June 15, 2011

Frankie's Market Cafe

Frankie's Market Cafe
4257 Highway 52 West
Helena, AL 35080

Situated on Highway 52 in Helena, Alabama is a unique cafe with fresh produce on one side, cooked vegetables and meats on the other. The menu at Frankie's Market Cafe includes fresh collards, squash, beans and other assorted dishes presented grilled, fried and baked. Frankie's serves down-home meals like Grandma used to make served hot and most definitely fresh. This jewel is a very short drive from Montevallo, Pelham, Hoover or even Alabaster. These local merchants are providing dual service and convenience.

Frankie's has been family owned and operated by Frankie's and Angie Cacioppo for the last 8 years, and they will celebrate their 8th anniversary in July. They have also been in the produce business in Helena and at the Alabama Farmer's Market for many years. The main goal is to create a relaxed atmosphere where people of all ages can enjoy their dining experience. Their mission is to promote and provide year round fresh produce, for the enjoyment of fresh fruits and vegetables, as well as the nutritional value. Frankie's specializes in Alabama homegrown tomatoes and peaches delivered directly from Chilton County.

If you want to experience a taste of the country where everyone is treated like family, go by and say hello to Angie and Frankie. Have a delicious meal and take home some of the freshest fruits and veggies around. Hours of operation are Sat-Wed: 11am-3pm and Thurs-Fri: 11am-8pm. There is also a breakfast buffet every Saturday from 7:30am-10:30am. The produce market is open Mon-Fri at 8:30 am.


Champion Produce Company of Moore's Crossroads

7000 Highway 22
Montevallo, AL 35115
Home Phone- 205-665-7602
Cell Phone- 205-417-5847

Champion Produce Company is a small produce distributor managed by Mr. Floyd Champion out of the back of his pick-up truck (equipped with several umbrellas for shade) and can be found in the Pit Stop gas station's parking lot at Moore's Crossroads. Mr. Champion lives in Almont, and he distributes the produce of local farmers in Jefferson and Chilton County, as well as some out-of-state produce. His produce truck is loaded fresh every morning
with red and green tomatoes, watermelons, cantaloupes, plums, and squash, and he can be spotted in town every day from 7 AM to 5 PM except Wednesday's and Friday's, when he is working in Greensboro.
He pays the owner of the Pit Stop one hundred dollars a month for the opportunity to set up shop at a very high-traffic section of Shelby County and has been distributing fresh produce in various locations since his retirement in 2000. Like U.S.A. Market, his prices are cheaper than local grocery stores, and larger, fresher fruit and vegetables are available for your dollar.
He is the former operator of the Helena Farmer's Market and ran a very successful produce stand in Vestavia; his operations have been the subject of several local television, newspaper, and magazine stories, as revealed to me in a scrapbook. Though obviously no stranger to publicity, after being run out of Vestavia upon local supermarket's accusations that he was causing considerable damage to their business, he now shies away from being a rockstar, and wishes to conduct his operation on nothing more than a small-scale. Though it was ridiculous to himself and I that any business conducted out the back end of a pick-up truck could harm giant corporate produce markets like Wal-Mart or Publix, he assured me that it was just a reality that it wouldn't take much at all for every supermarket from here to Columbiana to complain about him stealing their customers through fresh, local produce.