Want to buy more organic and local food, but don’t know where to begin? This guide will help point you in the right direction.
Everyday more Birmingham families are paying closer attention to the food they eat. Consumers are educating themselves about the potential health hazards of biotechnology, pesticides and hormones used in the country’s food supply. The information can be overwhelming and put the average shopper at a loss about the choices to make when purchasing groceries for the week. This food guide aims to help simplify the process, and hopefully, make shopping for local and organic foods in Birmingham easier than ever before.
Anyone who knows anything about Birmingham knows the best kept secret is the food. The best chefs in town use local ingredients in their restaurants on a daily basis. The good news is anyone can purchase locally grown foods from the same farms often featured on the menus of restaurants such as Highlands Bar & Grill or Hot & Hot Fish Club–it’s just a matter of knowing know where to begin.
When eating at many of Birmingham’s finest restaurants, chances are your meal will include locally grown and/or organic ingredients from Jones Valley Teaching Farm (JVTF) or Mt. Laurel Farm School, a partner of JVTF.
Not only do both farms grow delicious vegetables, but they also provide a valuable community service of helping to educate school-aged children about the importance of the food they eat. Fresh produce from Jones Valley Teaching Farm is available to the public at their downtown stand Monday – Friday, from 10 a.m. – 5 p.m., at on the corner of 7th Avenue and 25th Street North. To learn more about Jones Valley Teaching Farm and their mission, check out 5 Days of Jones Valley Teaching Farm.
Working in partnership with JVTF, the Mt. Laurel Farm School also positively influences the community through hands-on science education, food policy advocacy and community outreach. The Mt. Laurel Farm stand is located in the town of Mt. Laurel off Dunavant Valley Road and is open daily from 10 a.m. – 4 p.m. In the fall Mt. Laurel Farm features harvest fresh produce such as cabbage, broccoli, winter squash and more.
Pepper Place Market is open each Saturday morning (rain or shine) from April through December. Pepper Place is located throughout a stretch of parking lots across 2nd Avenue South and 28th Street South in downtown Birmingham. The outdoor market features farmers from the central Alabama area selling fruits and vegetables straight from their farms. In addition to fresh, local produce shoppers can also find honey, cheeses, breads and an array of handmade crafts. Learn more at pepperplacemarket.com.
Produce Box Delivery Programs
In addition to shopping at local farm stands, Birmingham families now have several options to participate in organic and/or local farming co-ops such as those available through Manna Market or Grow Alabama. These co-ops give consumers the opportunity to buy organic or local produce typically for less than traditional grocery store prices. Customers have the opportunity to purchase vegetable boxes in a variety of serving sizes and price ranges.
Manna Market delivers to various locations across the greater Birmingham every other Tuesday. To learn more about Manna Market, visit mannamarketorganics.myshopify.com.
Grow Alabama delivers boxes to locations throughout the metro area on a weekly basis. In addition to offering a variety of boxes, the company also has a convenient online grocery store. Browse various options at growalabama.com.
Freshfully Market offers local consumers a combination of shopping options. In addition to shopping at the Freshfully grocery store, an assortment of box delivery options are also available for purchase online at freshfully.com. Simply visit the site, choose your box preferences, and select a convenient delivery date and location. To shop in person, visit the Freshfully Market in the Avondale area at 200 41st Street South. The store features fresh, local produce and meat among many other Alabama grown and made food products. Update: Freshfully Market and its box delivery program has closed.
Traditional Grocery Stores
The Birmingham area is enjoying a steady increase in the number of organic grocers around town. So if you are in desperate need of buying some last minute ingredients for dinner, fear not, there are plenty of locally grown and organic food options available at several more mainstream grocers as well. The following stores offer everything from organic produce and meats to all natural shampoo and make-up.
Whole Foods, located at 3100 Cahaba Village Plaza, Birmingham, AL 35243.
Earth Fare, located at 3230 Galleria Circle, Hoover, AL 35244.
Fresh Market, with two locations at 4700 Hwy. 280, Birmingham, AL 35242 and 549 Brookwood Village, Homewood, AL 35209.
Organic Harvest, located at 1580 Montgomery Highway, Hoover, AL 35216.
In addition to these stores, many other traditional grocery stores such as Publix, Winn Dixie and even Wal-Mart, now offer organic products.
New information is continuously becoming available about the harmful effects caused by genetically modified organisms (GMOs), artificial dyes, and other unnatural ingredients used in many different foods. To avoid feeling overwhelmed by it all, simply focus on maintaining a healthy diet by including as many whole and organic foods as possible. Hopefully, this will lead to a natural increase in options as the demand for clean, organic food continues to grow throughout the greater Birmingham area.
Lurenda Avery enjoys writing about finding joy in the little things and taking life in stride on her new blog, One Minute Living.