4 months ago

Alabama’s Pepper Place drive-thru farmers market a success, others look to emulate

A Saturday morning at the Market at Pepper Place is supposed to be crowded. That’s part of the charm and the allure.

From finding a parking place to finding the right ears of corn, the experience is all about finding your way through crowds, hugging and shaking hands with those you haven’t seen in a while and handling the fruits, vegetables, bread and other goods for sale.

The Market at Pepper Place finds success in drive-through farmers market from Alabama NewsCenter on Vimeo.

Even the farmers and vendors are packed in tight to allow as many as possible to participate.

COVID-19 and social distancing have eliminated much of what we love about the Market at Pepper Place but what remains is the most important element – the ability for farmers and small businesses to sell their goods to eager customers.

Now, instead of packed together, farmers and vendors are widely spaced within a two-block area.

Instead of crowds strolling through the market, cars follow a pathway, popping their trunks for contact-free delivery of items they prepaid for earlier in the week. The only music, if there is any, comes from the car radio. The live artists that give rhythm to the market have no place in this new form.

The Market at Pepper Place is marking its 20th year this year in what was supposed to be a celebration of two decades of incredible success. Instead, it has turned into an innovative approach to a global pandemic that still speaks to its two decades of incredible success.

“What better way to prove your longevity and your resilience than by adapting and showing your farmers and showing your customers that you have their back, that you’re going to be there no matter what, through thick and thin, and you will do whatever it takes to continue to protect and nurture this wonderful relationship that’s been growing for 20 years,” said Leigh Sloss-Corra, executive director of the Market at Pepper Place.

Sloss-Corra said it became clear that even as the Pepper Place Market began shifting from its smaller, indoor winter market into its typical outdoor market that concerns over the coronavirus were going to make the traditional model untenable.

“The outdoor market is a place of conviviality and people want to hug each other and talk and catch up,” she said. “Southerners are just naturally warm, gregarious people and it’s really hard for people to just stand around outside in that atmosphere and not want to congregate.”

Sloss-Corra said the focus became how they could save the most important aspects of the market.

“We just realized that if we were going to help our farmers and if we were going to protect our community, the best way we could do it is make it a drive-thru market,” she said.

It helped that Birmingham is a “car city” of commuters. Sloss-Corra said cities that are more pedestrian are having trouble finding workable solutions for their farmers markets.

To verify it would work, the Pepper Place Drive-Thru Farmers Market started small with just five farmers in the main parking lot the first week. Week two, it moved up to eight and then up to 13 last week, causing it to stretch through the parking lot and up the next street. This weekend could see as many as 17 farmers and there is still room to grow.

“This model is working. It’s safe. We envisioned it to be scalable,” Sloss-Corra said. “We foresee that we could have as many as 30 (vendors) on a Saturday if we stretch into the Martin Biscuit parking lot.”

But the real measure of success is not the number of farmers, but how the farmers themselves are doing.

“The beautiful thing is the farmers have said they’re selling twice as much,” Sloss-Corra said.

The farmers lose the kind of interaction with customers that can be a valuable part of the traditional market. But that interaction also eliminates time that could be used to make sales. With the drive-thru market, the sales are complete before the market takes place.

Moreover, customers tend to order more for efficiency reasons and because they are cooking more at home these days with restaurants closed and only able to offer takeout or curbside service.

“On our busiest day in the time that we have been here at Pepper Place, the most customers we have served in a single day was 112; that was our busiest day. This week with the online market place, we have now seen an increase to 2016 orders,” said Matthew Lawrence, co-founder of Marble Creek Farmstead.

The new system offers less anxiety than going into a grocery store, Sloss-Corra said. There is also less concern over the origins and delivery of the food.

“You’re looking right at the guy who is saying, ‘Yeah, I picked that celery or those peas yesterday,’” Sloss-Corra said.

Market at Pepper Place Founder Cathy Sloss Jones said the drive-thru market is making a difference.

“As the Drive-Thru Market at Pepper Place continues to grow, it will help farmers survive financially through this difficult period, and provide the community with accessible locally grown food in a safe environment,” Jones said. “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.”

The drive-thru market isn’t just garnering attention among the farmers and customers; it’s getting interest from other farmers markets across the country.

Sloss-Corra was on a conference call with 400 market managers in the Farmers Market Coalition this week. She said there was great interest in what Pepper Place is doing in Birmingham from places as far away as Idaho and New York and as close as New Orleans.

Even with the success and the ability to grow, Sloss-Corra said they are already looking at ways of improving the drive-thru market. For instance, whereas customers now have to go to individual vendors listed on the Market at Pepper Place website, Sloss-Corra said they plan to have a single place to shop from all vendors and pay once with all of the money then distributed to the farmers and vendors. There is talk of adding a second day, maybe in the middle of the week.

“What if we needed to operate like this for the rest of the summer? Can we? I think we can,” Sloss-Corra said. “We can support our farmers. I think that we can continue to provide this essential service. We could do it all summer if we needed to.”

When the traditional Pepper Place Market does return, Sloss-Corra suspects there will be those who like the convenience of the drive-thru market or maybe even the addition of home delivery in the future.

“I think that the silver lining is that in times of stress you have this motivation and impetus to try new things,” she said. “I think this is going to be a really great enhancement for our farmers and for our community. I’m proud that we’re pulling it off and, so far, everybody’s pretty happy.”

Just having the market return in any form has been a relief to many.

“It’s heartening,” Sloss-Corra said. “A lot of people said it gives you hope that things will come back to normal and, in the meantime, there are good things in this world where things are a little stressful now. The Market is like hope in a box.”

(Courtesy of Alabama NewsCenter)

9 hours ago

VIDEO: Alabama coronavirus numbers drop, 200,000 students will be tested before class starts, Tuberville and Trump have huge leads and more on Alabama Politics This Week …

Radio talk show host Dale Jackson and Alabama Democratic Executive Committee member Lisa Handback take you through this week’s biggest political stories, including:

— Are the masks working?

— How will the state react to the numbers after 200,000 college students are tested before school starts back?

— Are President Donald Trump and GOP U.S. Senate candidate Tommy Tuberville sitting on insurmountable leads in Alabama?

Jackson and Handback are joined by Alabama Arise’s Jane Adams to discuss Medicaid expansion and progressive politics in Alabama.

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Jackson closes the show with a “parting shot” directed at all the education officials who want to cancel classes without thinking about the long-term ramifications of that decision and how people will respond politically to this in the future.

Dale Jackson is a contributing writer to Yellowhammer News and hosts a talk show from 7-11 AM weekdays on WVNN.

9 hours ago

UAB employee Tara Bowman: Empowered by loss, committed to cancer education

Tara Bowman knows the statistics by heart. She can also recite health manuals nearly from memory when it comes to cancer awareness, health disparities and the need for early screening and treatment.

Bowman’s own family history is a painful lesson in the urgency of cancer screenings and health awareness, which she generously shares.

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“I do it both from the book and, personally, from the heart,” said Bowman, program manager in the Office of Community Outreach & Engagement at the O’Neal Comprehensive Cancer Center at UAB. “When you are real with people, they listen to you better.”

Bowman knows the devastating effects of cancer at its deepest levels after the deaths of her own father, stepfather, stepmother, aunt and uncle, all from 2015 through 2017. Bowman recalls that she later flipped through her calendar and was shaken by all the notations made for funerals within such a short time.

Bowman is not defined by her loss. Instead, she has become empowered by it in her daily mission to provide essential information about cancer to help save lives.

“At first, it made me numb,” Bowman said. “At the same time, it gave me an internal drive for the job that I was doing. When I started telling people about my stories, they wanted to know, in detail, what happened. They wanted to know more about it, and that has led to them wanting to get screened.”

Bowman’s official job title understates her multiple roles in the office where she works with individuals in the community to remove barriers related to cancer screenings. She is responsible for developing and implementing several cancer outreach and research programs that focus on increasing cancer screening rates and healthy lifestyle efforts.

Bowman is especially passionate about creating awareness for lung cancer, the illness that claimed the life of her father, Joseph Henry Bowman III, who died in 2016.

Her father’s death came just six weeks after her stepfather died from bone cancer following previous bouts with prostate cancer and throat cancer.

On June 16, Bowman took part in the 2020 Virtual Lung Cancer Voices Advocacy Summit, where she helped deliver messages to members of Congress about the importance of federal funding for lung cancer research.

“Our voices were powerful, and without a doubt, our personal stories helped their offices understand what it’s like to live with or care for someone with lung cancer,” Bowman said. “My drive now is to get as many people screened for all of these cancers because early detection saves lives.”

At the O’Neal Comprehensive Cancer Center, Bowman manages six coordinators who oversee more than 178 Community Health Advisors. She also coordinates 44 CHAs on her own in Jefferson County.

Claudia Hardy, program director of the Office of Community Outreach & Engagement, called it remarkable that Bowman could channel her own loss into an even greater determination to promote cancer awareness.

“Tara is a good health educator because she knows the information and how to deliver it to audiences of all sizes and varieties,” Hardy said. “What makes her an exceptional educator is her ability to connect one-on-one with individuals and explain on a deeply personal level why cancer awareness and cancer screenings are so essential.”

Bowman doesn’t mind sharing her stories of family loss and said she hopes that they motivate others to take action for themselves and their own families.

“When we had a breast and cervical project, I did pretty well to share the message and say, ‘Hey, my stepmom ignored the signs. Take advantage of the opportunity,’” Bowman said. “I think I got a lot of people to sign up for testing because I shared my story. It was my calling to come to the O’Neal Cancer Center.”

While Bowman is known to dispense her own style of awareness and education, she said her energy comes from everyone around her and their shared vision of reducing cancer deaths and cancer disparities.

“They trickle down energy, and I feed off positive energy,” she said. “Any time they ask me to do something, I know it’s a good project. I don’t realize how much work I’m doing because there’s so much energy surrounding it.”

Bowman said she never anticipated changing her path to focus on cancer awareness and community outreach. She was originally trained as a social worker and spent years working with children and families, but she said she’s found her niche at the O’Neal Cancer Center, where her skills are being used and expanded to include health advocacy.

“In this field, it’s like you are doing some social work because you refer them to resources, and it’s a personal conversation. It’s about relationships,” Bowman explained. “It’s something that has to come from the heart. If you don’t have a natural heart for this, you can’t teach it.”

Bowman remains excited about her work to spread the message of healthier living, whether she’s doing so in person or virtually, and to ensure that the people of Alabama have access to life-saving health care and educational information.

“There’s so much to be done. I don’t have time to get tired now,” Bowman said. “My dad always said that he would rest when he dies, and that’s literally what he did. He would be proud of me.”

To learn more about services offered by the O’Neal Comprehensive Cancer Center’s Office of Community Outreach & Engagement, contact Claudia Hardy, director of Community Outreach, at chardy@uab.edu or 205-975-0003.

This story originally appeared on the University of Alabama at Birmingham’s UAB News website.

(Courtesy of Alabama NewsCenter)

Alabama Power Foundation 2018 annual report wins Silver ADDY award

The Alabama Power Foundation’s 2018 annual report was recently honored with a Silver ADDY for print at the American Advertising Awards, one of the world’s largest creative competitions. Titled “Stories from the Field,” the report features the work of nonprofit agencies throughout Alabama and the stories behind them.

“It is an honor to have our annual report recognized with one of the creative industry’s most prestigious awards,” said Myla Calhoun, president of the Alabama Power Foundation. “This award represents the important work of our nonprofit partners and their unwavering commitment to improving the quality of life for all Alabamians. It is a privilege to tell their stories and illustrate them through stunning photography and design.”

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As the second installment of the “Stories from the Field” series, the 2018 report includes eight booklets – seven stories about nonprofits and one summarizing the work of the Alabama Power Foundation. Featured in the report are The Literacy Council of Central AlabamaThe Nature Conservancy, the city of OzarkStorybook FarmTuscaloosa’s Police Athletic League and the Alabama Shakespeare Festival. Also highlighted in the report are the volunteers of the Alabama Power Service Organization and Alabama Power Energizers, two organizations of current and retired Alabama Power employees dedicated to serving communities through volunteerism.

Cayenne Creative managed the design and production of the report and, in addition to the Silver ADDY at the national level, received five ADDYs at the local and district levels for its work on the report. At the local level, the report won a Silver ADDY in the Printed Annual Report category, a Gold in the Corporate Social Responsibility Annual Report category and a Gold for Best in Show. The report received two Gold ADDYs in the printed annual report category for District 7, allowing it to advance to the national level.

Another Birmingham-based agency also received honors at the national awards ceremony. Big Communications earned a Silver ADDY for Illustration for its work on the 2019 Sidewalk Film Festival’s sponsor trailer. The trailer was the opening credits before the films to highlight the festival’s sponsors.

Drawing nearly 40,000 entries each year from 200 markets, the American Advertising Awards is hosted by the American Advertising Federation and consists of a three-tier competition comprising local, district and national levels. Winning at the national level is achieved by winning at the local and district levels.

For more information about the Alabama Power Foundation and to view the 2018 annual report and others, visit https://powerofgood.com/about/.

(Courtesy of Alabama NewsCenter)

13 hours ago

Obex Health creates tailor-made face masks to keep people safe from COVID-19

Wearing a face mask to protect your health – and others – is the new normal. The problem is finding a mask that fits to a “T.”

Obex Health CEO Forrest Satterfield and Dr. Kanti Sunkavalli may have solved that problem. Obex creates custom-made, digitally fitted masks that meld to every “nook and cranny” of one’s face. The secret is a unique crafting process that conforms to facial contours.

Since May, Obex has sold hundreds of masks, with most going to health care providers nationwide. The company has given several medical providers and nonprofits a discount, with a recent shipment going to a California nonprofit.

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“Once a year, medical providers must be checked to make sure they’re wearing the correct mask for their face,” said Sunkavalli, a physician turned entrepreneur.

With the pandemic spreading in March, an ill-fitting face mask was one more thing for Dr. Jennifer Hess to worry about. The ER physician quickly added the Obex mask to her personal arsenal for protecting herself and preventing transmission of the novel coronavirus.

“The struggle is when PPE supplies aren’t always available,” said Hess, who graduated from UAB Medical School in 2001 and was an ER physician at UAB Hospital from 2018 to June 2020. “COVID-19 is one of those viruses that is hard to contain unless you wear a mask. We know that consistently wearing masks keeps emergency providers from getting infected. With my Obex mask, I can be confident I’ve got my own PPE. This will help keep me safe and not spread the virus.

“When I’m using it, I can throw it in my bag, and it doesn’t get squished,” said Hess, who will soon begin working in the Emergency Department at Vanderbilt University Medical Center in Nashville. “I put the mask in a Ziploc® bag and it holds its shape. Vanderbilt currently has adequate PPE but is flexible in allowing providers to secure personalized PPE as well.”

The Obex mask is highly protective, the CEO said.

“The big difference in our mask and others is that a cloth or fabric mask prevents only other people from being infected,” Satterfield said. “Ours prevents you from being infected and you from infecting others.”

Using innovation, high tech to fight coronavirus

Obex combines custom-molded silicone with high-tech 3D printing to make a “100% impermeable” mask.

The inventive design is the brainchild of Satterfield, who, at 25, is a rising star at the Birmingham “think tank” Innovation Depot. A biomedical engineer who makes custom 3D-printed knee and wrist braces, Satterfield went through dozens of material suppliers, custom processes and mask designs to reach the final product decisions with Sunkavalli. The comfortable, medical-grade protection is customizable for every business or customer preference, they said.

In March, Satterfield and Sunkavalli saw the need for PPE looming on the horizon. Sunkavalli recognized mask safety as an emergent need for the medical community and public. He and Satterfield talked with many doctors and nurses about the national shortage of face masks and the problems faced by those wearing them 8 to 12 hours a day.

Sunkavalli’s wife, Pallavi, is an ER physician and site medical director at Coosa Valley Medical Center in Sylacauga. “As a physician, it’s close to my heart to help out as much as possible, to keep everyone safe,” he said.

From a medical view, Satterfield saw that it made sense to stop transmission through face masks.

“The safety of ventilators was a big question mark in my mind,” said Satterfield, a University Innovation Fellow who earned a B.S. in biomedical engineering at UAB in 2018. “I’m a big believer in design thinking.

“Design thinking requires you to exist in an ambiguous state,” said Satterfield, who formed Satterfield Technologies in 2014. “I made no assumptions about what the solution should be or that I fully understood the problem we were solving. By interviewing people from different points of view – doctors, nurses, front-line workers – I created a solid definition for what problem we were solving and how our users needed us to solve it.”

Satterfield rapidly built prototypes of masks and got them into user’s hands, recorded feedback and made new masks based on comments. He repeated this until reaching a point where initial users were satisfied.

“What we immediately assume about health care is that the best, universal way to do something is already being used,” he said. “But there are lots of design problems in health care. A lot of times, people are focused on the solution rather than the problem.”

Birthing the Obex mask

Satterfield’s office at Innovation Depot already had 3D scanners and printers for making state-of-the-art braces. Those were used to help produce face masks with the tailor-made fit. Customers with an iPhone X or newer model can download the Bellus3D Face App from the App Store. They can select the “Face+Neck” option, then take a scan and unlock it for .99 cents. They can then export an HD version of the picture to Obex. Customers can schedule a 3D scan at the Obex Health Office at Innovation Depot, or an Obex employee can perform 3D scans for several people at a home or business for a small fee.

Obex makes masks in many colors and can add a corporate logo to the front cover. Each N95 filter lasts one week, which saves money. For those with a high-exposure risk needing more frequent filter replacements – health providers, teachers and customer-facing employees – Obex Health has a discounted subscription plan that automatically ships filters.

The high-grade silicone rim makes the mask easy to wear, Sunkavalli said. The mask clings to the face because it’s made for that person. There’s no bunching or gaps around the sides to allow entry of COVID-19, he said.

“The silicone we use is designed to be worn a very long time,” Sunkavalli said. “They’re also practical. You can disinfect them with soap and water every day. The filter only has to be replaced weekly.”

Finding a protective mask for children is a challenge, said Sunkavalli, whose kids are 7 and 9.

“With a custom mask, no matter how small or large the face – you always have a perfect fit,” Sunkavalli said.

The Obex mask is receiving positive feedback as demand grows for the product made with materials from America.

Creations whose time has come

As COVID-19 cases continue to rise, the need to protect one’s family – and self – is ever-present.

Hess said her Obex mask – in Vanderbilt University colors – provides a “unique opportunity to be prepared.”

“I don’t think that COVID-19 is going to go away anytime soon,” said Hess, who with her husband, Dr. Erik Hess, trained at and then practiced on faculty at the Mayo Clinic for 15 years. “Wearing a mask can go a long way toward keeping the people of Alabama from contracting this disease.”

For Satterfield, the desire to keep his community safe is personal. His parents – deemed high-risk for their ages and because his father has Parkinson’s disease – wear Obex masks.

His parents live in Huntsville, but, even though he wants to see them, he won’t go home, he said. “The risks are too high. It’s really difficult.”

In the meantime, Satterfield gives back by devoting his life to the mission of Obex, often working 14 hours or more each day.

This young entrepreneur is dreaming of more ways to protect the public by providing state-of-the-art face masks and braces.

“I’ve always had it in mind to be an entrepreneur,” Satterfield said. “In biomedical engineering, none of my ideas had been done yet. I see Obex as being a Johnson & Johnson health care-style company with many product lines.”

For details about how to order an Obex mask, email Satterfield.

(Courtesy of Alabama NewsCenter)

15 hours ago

Doug Jones: ‘Tommy Tuberville hasn’t been tested yet — Jeff Sessions didn’t hardly touch him on issues that I think are very important’

On Friday’s episode of Alabama Public Television’s “Capitol Journal,” incumbent U.S. Sen. Doug Jones (D-Mountain Brook) dismissed polling that showed him down 17 points to his GOP challenger Tommy Tuberville in November’s U.S. Senate election.

Jones questioned the poll’s methodology during an interview with APTV’s Don Dailey, saying they were not a “good barometer.”

He also argued former Auburn head football coach Tommy Tuberville, his Republic opponent, had not been tested. He mentioned that Jeff Sessions, Tuberville’s Republican opponent in the GOP primary runoff, did not “hardly touch” him on particular issues.

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“I don’t put any stock in those polls,” he said.” We’ve been following things for a really long time. Polls are really crazy. They were wrong in my race in 2017. They were wrong in the presidential race. That one in particular — that 17-point poll — is almost laughable because they started weighing past presidential votes, which is not a really good barometer at all of what’s going on on the ground today.”

“The fact is that Tommy Tuberville hasn’t been tested yet,” Jones continued. “Jeff Sessions didn’t hardly touch him on issues that I think are very important. We’re talking about leadership. We’re talking about the issues of the day — how you would deal with this pandemic. I’ll put my votes, my experience in the United States Senate up against his votes, his unemployment compensation of $5 million. I’ll put my record up against his any day of the week.”

@Jeff_Poor is a graduate of Auburn University and the University of South Alabama, the editor of Breitbart TV, a columnist for Mobile’s Lagniappe Weekly and host of Mobile’s “The Jeff Poor Show” from 9 a.m.-12 p.m. on FM Talk 106.5.