Memphis' first year-round full-time farmers market is under construction and almost ready to open. The South Memphis location may not be what you expected. Construction is under way at the corner of Mississippi Boulevard and South Parkway.
The concept is simple. It's a place to get fresh produce in your neighborhood.
When the once a week farmers market opened, Rev. Doctor Kenneth Robinson said people were skeptical, but soon this will be a full time grocer.
"Contrary to people's opinions, when we opened the farmers market back in 2010, our residents showed that there was a demand, a high demand for this kind of quality, nutritious food," he says.
Rev. Robinson is pastor of St. Andrew's Church across the street. The church donated the space and raised the money for the venture.
So far, they've received more than $1.2 million in donations. That will turn the once a week seasonal market into a six day a week, year round business.
St. Andrew's board members spent years focusing on affordable housing for its South Memphis neighbors. But, after talking to thousands of families, they found people kept bringing up the same need for the neighborhood.
"There is no access to fresh fruit and fresh vegetables in South Memphis," Rev. Robinson said. "Many of our residents, a lot are senior citizens, having to get someone to pick them up, take them to a store, get on multiple buses if you've got a young mother with a child."
This year, the seasonal market will open as usual, and the full time market will be phased in. It will go beyond a typical farmers market to include a deli and cheese counter, dried goods, and a demonstration kitchen.
"We'll be offering classes, teaching people how to cook healthier, shop smarter, really extend their food budget as much as possible," says Curtis Thomas with The Works.
Thomas adds that the success in South Memphis with the farmers market should be a message to the grocery store chains.
"It's a chance to have a real living laboratory to show those big guys that these communities can support and want this type of service in their neighborhood," he said.
"Our community is alive, we are vibrant, we are being revitalized, there is a renaissance occurring in South Memphis," Rev. Robinson added.
The South Memphis Farmers Market opens in May. The full service green grocery will be phased in during the summer.
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