I’d only been in the East Lake community of Birmingham once before this summer. That was in the Fall of 2009 when I attended a couple of session of a sustainable foods conference held at East Lake United Methodist Church.
Last year, I moved to the east side of town. The East Lake community is a few miles away, on the northern side of I-20. It’s an area that’s been economically-challenged for decades. The decline began with the “white flight” of middle-class residents to the over-the-mountain suburbs in the 1960s and 1970s. By the 1980s, the East Lake area had a bad reputation.
But low housing costs and opportunities to bring a once-vital community back to life prompted artists, musicians, writers, young professionals and others to return to East Lake in the late 1990s and began a rejuvenation process. The East Lake Arts District is a nonprofit group formed to help bring the community back to life through visual and performing arts.
Peer, Inc. (Promoting Empowerment and Enrichment Resources) organized and operates the East Lake Farmers Market as part of its mission to rebuild economically-challenged communities. East Lake Farmers Market brings affordable fresh fruits and vegetables into a community where it’s hard to find good quality produce at all.
It’s a small market but with the highest quality fruits, vegetables, greens and other produce. Baked goods are also available. On alternating weeks, you may find local artisan goat cheese, raw honey, locally-roasted coffee, and more.
Woody Wiginton, who purchases and locally roasts coffees under his label Finer Grind Coffee always has a table at East Lake Farmers Market. Finer Grind is the best coffee you’ll ever taste. More on Finer Grind in a separate post that I’m working on.
In addition to the farmers and artisans selling their wares, there’s music, cooking demonstrations, tables for playing checkers and relaxing with neighbors. There’s usually something for kids, as well. One week the Urban League/Walgreen’s mobile health unit was on hand for free health screenings.
The peaches I’ve bought from Witt Farms at East Lake Farmers Market are the best peaches I’ve had—ever. I’ve shared a few with my mom and nephew. Both raved about the sweetness. Peaches don’t come any better.
Everything from Winfrey Farms is wonderful. Actually, I haven’t bought anything at East Lake Farmers Market that wasn’t perfectly ripe and/or delicious. Whited Farms, Dixon Farms, A & P Farmers–everything is great.
A couple of the farmers/vendors at East Lake Farmers Market also sell their produce at the upscale Pepper Place and other markets. One told me he sells for less at East Lake (and I’ve verified this by comparing).
The East Lake Farmers Market is open on Saturday mornings from 8 a.m. until Noon in the parking lot of East Lake United Methodist Church in Birmingham.
The East Lake Farmers Market represents community development (or redevelopment) at its best. I hope that it continues and thrives, long into the future. I’ve started making it a point to stop at a locally-owned gas station near the farmer’s market to fill up my car every couple of weeks and keep a few more dollars churning in that community.
Finer Grind Coffee
Dixon Farms at East Lake Farmers Market
How to Make a Perfect Tomato Sandwich (using Cherokee Purple heirloom tomato from A & P Farms at East Lake Farmers Market)
- East Lake Farmers Market
- Facebook Page for East Lake Farmers Market
- Website for East Lake Arts District
- East Lake Arts District Facebook Page