“Preserving the vital connection between farmers and the community is crucial during this time.” – Cathy Sloss Jones, Sloss Real Estate President
Amidst the uncertainty caused by COVID-19, the Market at Pepper Place shifted its operations to offer a contactless drive-thru concept, safely allowing the Birmingham community to continue purchasing fresh produce and other items from Alabama farmers. While this isn’t how the Market community anticipated celebrating its 20th Anniversary, it remains true to the original mission of the Market: to respond to the growing need to connect local family farmers and the people of Birmingham.
“As the Drive-Thru Market at Pepper Place continues to grow, it will help farmers survive financially through this period, and provide the community with accessible locally grown food in a safe environment,” says Cathy Sloss Jones. “Coming to Pepper Place each Saturday is more important than ever to ensure the Market’s livelihood. We are helping Alabamians access fresh food safely, while protecting and preserving what is best about our culture and community.”
Since its pilot on March 21, the Market team has been hard at work planning and evolving the Drive-Thru Market each weekend to follow the CDC’s recommendations. Beginning with only five vendors, the Market continues to increase the number of vendors. Each week beginning on Tuesday, customers pre-order and pay for their items online. Then, on Saturday mornings, the Market staff directs cars through the new pick-up process, where vendors place items in the back of each car. Cash payments, walk-ups, and onsite purchasing are not permitted, which limits contact and reduces risk for customers and vendors alike. The Drive Thru Market has been approved by the Alabama Farmers Market Authority, and is in line with CDC and health department recommendations.
The innovative drive-thru model has been a successful solution for the Market at Pepper Place, and acted as a leader and source of inspiration for other farmers markets around the country! On April 6, Market Executive Director Leigh Sloss-Corra shared the design of the Drive-Thru Market with 400 Farmers Market Coalition members. The Market and Sloss Real Estate teams are honored to play a part in connecting farmers with communities to provide a reliable, local food source during this time.
The Market at Pepper Place has been an integral part of the Birmingham community for 20 years, creating hundreds of jobs, contributing millions of dollars to the local economy, and growing to welcome an average of 10,000 people each week. For now, Saturdays look a bit different, but the Market stands firm in its mission to support Alabama farmers and encourage local business growth.