MADISON COUNTY, Ala. (WHNT) — The chatter around the Madison County Farmers Market Wednesday was more like a collective sigh of relief as farmers, growers and patrons alike got word the county commission has adopted an agreement to increase market hours and restore operating times to six days a week.
Back in May, the commission approved an agreement with Kenny Brooks, owner of adjoining Brooks Market regarding the operation of the market through the end of August to allow the commission to evaluate options regarding the future of the market.
Numerous complaints regarding the hours of operation led county administrator Kevin Jones and county attorney Jeff Rich to meet with Brooks and draw up a new agreement.
Brooks was originally given a reduced rental rate on the property in exchange for taking on an interim managerial position which included assuming the responsibility of locking up after farmers left.
The new agreement will not only increase the time Brooks will provide management services for the market but will in turn increase market hours and days of operation through November 15. Rich says that date was chosen because the market’s nutrition voucher program accepts customer coupons for produce through mid-November.
There was concern if the market didn’t operate with some consistency after August, some of the citizens who depend on those vouchers for a portion of their food would be negatively impacted.
The new market hours are as follows:
Monday – Friday 8 a.m. – 5 p.m.
Saturday 6 a.m. – 3 p.m.
“We did have support and I’m very pleased with the outcome today,” said Jane Weir, a Huntsville native and passionate patron turned market advocate. “To hear the commission today and to know that they still care about what happens down here, I can’t thank them enough.”
Grower Tommy Bragg’s father started selling at the market back in 1960 when Bragg was just 15 years old. Bragg says for someone who has practically grown up at a vegetable stand, the commission’s commitment to a solution means a great deal to everyone involved.
“It helps the farmers and it helps the customers,” Bragg said.
Commissioners were still unsure on the new schedule during Wednesday’s meeting. Adding to their concerns were complaints from three meeting attendees that Brooks was remaining open past 5 p.m. when other local sellers were forced out.
District 1 Commissioner Roger Jones expressed interest in allowing produce sellers to remain on site until 6 p.m. to catch the after-work rush, but County Administrator Kevin Jones said for liability reasons, the county should not leave the market unattended when Brooks closes at 5 p.m.
Commission Chairman Dale Strong agreed with Jones’ recommendation that the commission should appoint a new farmers market board because some members are unable to fully serve anymore. The chairman asked each commissioner to bring a name to represent their districts at the next meeting.
Patron Jane Weir said she’s eager to throw her hat in for a chance to help formally represent the market as one of seven board members.
“I’d like to see a local little deli put in here, I plan to serve on the board when they appoint and I’d really like to see this place brought back to life,” Weir said.
Following the county holiday schedule, the market will be closed on Thursday, July 4.