Project 50 is a weekly feature on a Mid-South nonprofit that will go on through 2014. I hope that you decide to get involved with at least one organization you hear about this year and put your love for Memphis to work. For this week's Project 50 edition, I asked Allison Cook, Market Director for the Memphis Farmer's Market, to write a guest post about the non-profit organization's role in Memphis and in her own life. The MFM's 2014 opening day is April 5.
How I got to MFM: When my husband, Christopher, and I moved to Memphis so he could take a job with ALSAC/St. Jude in 2009, we didn’t know anyone. I came from the magazine industry and reached out to Edible Memphis editor, Melissa Petersen. When we met, she immediately said, “You should volunteer at Memphis Farmers Market!” She told me about the market and the culture and promised me I wouldn’t meet a bad person shopping for local produce. I am so thankful I took her advice.
I volunteered practically every Saturday and loved getting to know the vendors, board members and fellow volunteers. Not a bad apple among them, indeed! I think my favorite volunteer post was the information table, but the coffee cart was a close second.
In 2012, MFM decided to create a full-time Market Director position. I was dying to apply. Could I really get paid to work for an organization I already loved? The answer was yes! Since then, I’ve been so proud of the continued growth and support MFM has received. It is a dream job, and it’s gratifying knowing how much the Market impacts the Memphis community and our wonderful vendors.
The best thing about MFM: The community. It’s amazing how the market has built a community. You see the same shoppers week after week, year after year, and you get to know each other. We’ve seen kids grow up at the market, and a new crop come after them. The vendors form relationships with customers that last all season and into the next. It really does feel like family. Did you know the Market happens each week because hundreds of dedicated volunteers give their time? The MFM wouldn’t exist without them, and we’re so grateful!
Why I love it: There’s not much that would get me up at the crack of dawn, especially on a Saturday morning, but watching the empty pavilion transform into a bustling marketplace with music, shoppers and vendors is truly magical.
Why you’ll love it: There is something for everyone. From kids activities, yoga, bike tours, great music, fun events, people watching, eating and shopping – you’ll find something to enjoy and love.
Come to the market because: It’s more fun than a grocery store, and you won’t leave empty-handed or hungry. Talking with the people who actually grew or made your food is enlightening. Ask them questions. Ask for their best recipes. Learn to cook something new. Our coffee cart, sponsored by Bluff City Coffee, should be your first stop, and our variety of food trucks will take care of your breakfast and/or lunch cravings.
Close to home: To keep vendor fees low and to ensure access to locally grown produce, flowers, prepared goods and locally made arts and crafts, we depend on donations, grants, sponsorships and fund raising events. We also accept EBT/SNAP cards which count double up to $10 for produce.
What you’ll find: Family farmers like True Vine Farms with a wide variety of produce; specialty greens from Gracious Gardens; freshly picked fruits from Jones Orchard; steaks for the grill from Claybrook Farms; homemade pies from Downtown Pie Company; unique flowers from Whitton Farms; catfish from Lake’s Catfish; and more and more and more. I always tell people to shop for their entire week. We’ve got pretty much everything you need but toilet paper!
Once you visit the market, and the spirit strikes you, you’ll want to get involved. Starting April 5, shop with us every Saturday until the end of October. We’re open from 7am until 1pm.
Official mission statement: To improve public access to locally grown foods, educate the community on nutrition, and foster a sense of civic pride by assisting farmers and artisans with sustainable business opportunities while creating a vibrant community-gathering place that supports our local economy.
Biggest annual events: Opening Day (April 5), Crop Hop 5K (June 20)
There’s lots of information on how to volunteer and support the MFM on our website, www.memphisfarmersmarket.org. We are also on Facebook, Twitter and Instagram (@memfarmersmkt). We’d love for you to be a part of the MFM family!
How you can help:
– Run, walk, skip or hop in our 3rd annual Crop Hop 5K. Sign up here.
– Volunteer or donate.