Tim Pfitzer had a problem with mushrooms. Or, rather, a problem that was mushrooming.
The forager for many of Alabama’s white tablecloth restaurants and a partner in the new Magic City Mushrooms farm faced a dilemma with the onset of COVID-19. With restaurants limiting their service and some even closing, Pfitzer had an oversupply of fungi and no one to take it off his hands.
Pfitzer, though, believes that for every problem there is a solution. So the Irondale resident came up with a way to solve his mushroom surplus.
“We had geared up production, so we had a lot more mushrooms than we needed,” he said. “All of a sudden we have these looming health concerns growing in the community. So, I decided to set up a farm stand in my front yard to start getting my product to the people.”
What started on the second Saturday in March as a plan to run a stand only on the weekends quickly became a daily venture with his partner in life, wife Bradleigh, who is also his partner in foraging and Magic City Mushrooms. Pfitzer began reaching out to other farmers who had lost business because of the coronavirus and the stand has been growing ever since. By earlier this week, he was getting ready to erect a third tent to accommodate the growing number of farmers offering their products at the farm stand.
The Irondale Farm Stand is essentially unmanned, although Pfitzer is often in his home or on the front porch and can answer questions. Customers shop one at a time, bag their own products, and pay on the honor system by putting money into a cash box, Pfitzer said.
A sign reminds people not to crowd together:
“We’re done practicing social distancing here. It’s time to perfect it,” Pfitzer said. “I had to be stern with a patron yesterday for not distancing herself from other shoppers. We’re not being nice about that. We are here to provide a safer shopping alternative.”
Pfitzer wears a mask when he is in the yard and says the farm stand is sanitized regularly with a mild bleach solution.
Irondale Farm Stand’s current lineup includes Magic City Mushrooms, Herb Inc., Hinkel’s Bakery, BDA Farm, Wild Violet Gardens, Walden Farmacy, Bitter X Brand Tincture Co. and Wild Fox Tea. Products include mushrooms and mushroom starter kits, eggs, bread, honey, tea, fire cider, mixed salad greens, potted herbs, watercress, bitters, tinctures, pesto and tapenade. Also, Turnipseed Tree Farms is selling a variety of 12-foot oak trees.
“What I’d love to see the most out of this, is for there to be 100 of these in Birmingham,” Pfitzer said. “I think we need that.”
When asked about how well the stand is doing, Pfitzer is silent for several seconds. When he finally speaks, emotion overcomes him.
“We’ll never know the positive effect that we had. But at least we tried. If we helped one less person become sick, or one less family lose a loved one, then we accomplished our goal.”
Visit the Irondale Farm Stand at 5173 Northumberland Road. Hours are “8 or 9-ish” a.m. to “7-ish” p.m., Pfitzer said. Follow on Instagram @irondalefarmstand.