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Celebrate National Farmers Market Week by Supporting Local Producers

Posted by Amelia Hines Dortch, NRCS Alabama in Conservation Food and Nutrition Farming
Aug 09, 2016
Gene Thornton with his produce at Ag Heritage Park
Gene Thornton is a sixth-generation farmer who sells fresh, organic produce at The Market at Ag Heritage Park each week during market season.

It’s a simple sign that has a pretty easy request, “Buy Fresh. Buy Local.”

It’s one that Gene Thornton hangs at his market stand each week at The Market at Ag Heritage Park on the Auburn University campus in Alabama. During market season, the sixth-generation farmer travels more than 40 miles from his small, organic farm in Roanoke to Auburn each week of market season. But he says the drive from Sneaky Crow Farm is worth it.

“There’s a big push on local, sustainable organic foods in America, and we think it’s very important to come here because we don’t have a problem selling our produce,” Thornton says. “In fact, most times we always sell out, which is a great feeling. You get a lot of support in a town like Auburn.”

And, it’s true. While we visited Thornton’s stand on a hot summer afternoon, a steady stream of return customers stopped by.

Zachery Gaylor and Morgan Cheatham traveling from Southern Union Community College
Zachery Gaylor and Morgan Cheatham travel from Southern Union Community College to buy from Mr. Thornton each week of market season.

“The best stuff comes from him,” said Zachery Gaylor, a Southern Union State Community College student. “The food is much better. It’s fresher. You feel better about buying it and supporting farmers like Gene.”

Auburn graduate student, Liz Graham said, “The potatoes. Oh my god, the potatoes are so good.”

Liz Graham and Chris Wyatt
Liz Graham and Chris Wyatt love Mr. Thornton’s potatoes!

Why is it so good? Thornton says, “We’ve always had to produce a good crop that’s marketable. And, it’s something that’s in my blood and I enjoy it.” Thornton has been selling his produce at The Market at Ag Heritage Park for four years now and plans to continue as long as customers keep coming.

Potatoes from Sneaky Crow Farm
Potatoes from Sneaky Crow Farm are a hot commodity at The Market.

Thornton also says that his relationship with his local Natural Resources Conservation Service (NRCS) office has helped him stay competitive. Over the last several years, he’s worked with NRCS on his 100 acre farm to improve soil health, pollinator habitat and water quantity. By implementing conservation practices, his produce, and his customers, have seen the benefits.

The 17th annual National Farmers Market Week is August 7-13, 2016 this year and we at NRCS are asking you to support farmers, ranchers and local food businesses like Gene Thornton’s by visiting your local market. There are more than 8,500 farmers markets across the nation and that means there are plenty of opportunities to support local economies.

To break it down in dollar terms, “the multiplier effect” shows that spending money at your local market can have a big impact. In fact, research shows that for every dollar spent locally, 40 cents of that dollar are reinvested in the local economy.

Make it a priority this year, if only for one week, to visit your local farmers market and get to know great people like Gene Thornton who are growing fresh, local food. We promise, it’ll be worth it.

Customers at Sneaky Crow Farm
Customers come back each week for organic produce from Sneaky Crow Farm.