Growing the Farmers Market and Harvesting Opportunities

by Holly Hollman
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athens farmers marketATHENS-A grant for the Farmers Market in the downtown area of Athens has inspired a community wide effort to make it a Saturday morning hangout, weekday shopping excursion, outdoor classroom and volunteer opportunity.


The Farmers Market is growing and harvesting opportunities to reach the public. Market lovers may see citizens buying fresh produce, children roasting marshmallows and listening to ghost stories and farmers creating organic community gardens.


kalbIn April, Keep Athens-Limestone Beautiful became the only Keep America Beautiful affiliate in the State of Alabama to win a $20,000 Lowe’s/KAB grant. KALB worked with the City of Athens, Limestone County Commission and Spirit of Athens to submit a grant to renovate the Farmers Market and add features such as community gardens, sidewalks, improved parking, landscapes and other features. The Limestone County Commission operates the market in season during the work week. The Spirit of Athens oversees the Athens Saturday Market in season and for special events.


laurie glennThe Farmers Market Renovation Team has been working to design raised container beds, hugelkultur gardens, a gazebo GAZEBOarea and landscaping. This team comprised of KALB staff, city and county officials, Spirit of Athens members, young organic farmers and interested citizens has made this project a community effort. The ensemble prompted Athens Saturday Market Chairwoman Laurie Glenn to remark at one meeting what an eclectic group it is with some in business suits, some in Boy Scout uniforms and some with aqua hair.


“This is the most diverse committee with which I’ve worked since I’ve come to Athens,” Glenn said. “We have people from many different communities and backgrounds coming together to work for people of many different communities and backgrounds. This garden will be a project for which the population of Athens can be proud.”


hugelkulturLowe’s Heroes from the Athens Lowe’s store will landscape around the gazebo at no cost. A Boy Scout will enlist the help of his troop to work on the project to become an Eagle Scout. The Scout will create the keyhole raised beds and other beds. Keyhole beds are circular with a path to the inner middle, which gives it a keyhole look. The keyhole of the garden will contain a raised mound of compost which will continually leach into and feed the garden. The organic farmers will create the hugelkultur beds, which are raised beds filled with rotting wood. This provides organic material, nutrients and air pockets for the roots. The sod and soil are placed on top.


So far, county workers have painted the pavilion, and city workers have installed the sidewalks. The city’s Public Worksculverts and wood Department also donated old culverts and wood for the container and hugelkultur beds. Lynn Persell Homebuilders donated left over brick from construction projects to be used as needed. Volunteers have constructed a shed to house garden supplies and a gazebo.


Rhonda Britton with the Alabama Cooperative Extension System also has offered assistance with rain barrel construction to irrigate the gardens.


aces“KALB is especially pleased that the team considered every way possible to use materials headed for the landfill to build garden beds,” said KALB Executive Coordinator Lynne Hart. “This will save landfill space and disposal costs. It also reduces the cost of materials, allowing the team to put the money saved toward other project needs. This shows the community how inexpensively similar gardens can be built in their own back yards.”



Once the community gardens are established, a volunteer coordinator will work with schools, churches and other organizations to create a work list for when volunteers will plant, weed and harvest the gardens. The food collected will be given to Limestone County Churches Involved for its food bank.


These gardens also will be utilized as educational tools. For example, Britton, who oversees the extension’s Water rain barrelsWheels program, can hold demos at the Farmers Market on reusing rainwater. Water Wheels is a mobile lab that trains the public about water conservation.


lynn hart“This project will provide community organizations, including KALB’s education coordinator, opportunities and a venue to sponsor programs on water conservation, growing healthy produce, building raised beds, choosing the best fertilizers and more,” Hart said. “We hope to have enough funds remaining to create passive educational signage to explain the garden beds and other interesting aspects of the project.”

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