Is all produce at the Matthews Community Farmers' Market organically grown?
No. Our growers range from those who have gone through the USDA organic certification process and can legally call their farms and produce "organic" to those growers who offer "naturally grown"* produce and are not federally certified, to still other growers who use conventional growing methods that include the sparing use of pesticides and/or chemical fertilizers.
The market leaves it to each grower to explain his or her growing practices to customers. Feel free to ask farmers how they grow their crops. It's one of the many advantages of buying produce at a growers-only farmers market where you buy directly from the local farmers who grew your food.
* The US Department of Agriculture enacted standards applying to the use of the word "organic" in produce and other products. This means many of our growers who have always grown organically can not legally call their produce or farms organic unless federally certified as such. Getting USDA certified as organic is a lengthy and expensive process that has been prohibitive for many of the small farmers and backyard growers who sell at our market.
Why can't I find all fruits and vegetables at the same time at the farmers' market?
We are a "grower-only" market where all crops are grown within 50 miles of Matthews. Not all crops can be grown in this area at any given time. For instance, carrots and spinach are cool weather crops that our farmers harvest in May and June. Because these crops don't grow here in the heat of the summer, you won't find them at market in July and August. You will, however, find hot weather crops like corn and watermelon during those months because that's when they ripen. Our commitment to locally grown produce ensures you are buying the freshest, best looking, best tasting, wholesome and nutritious produce directly from the farmer who grew it and who harvested it just a few hours before your purchase. And don't forget, when you buy directly from a local farmer, you also support local agriculture as a viable part of the community.
How do I get a booth at the market to be a vendor?
The market has specific rules governing who can sell and what can be sold, as well as an application process. Applications are reviewed by the market's board of directors once each year and are only accepted between Jan. 1 and Feb. 1. No waiting list is maintained nor are applications kept on file. Please note that handmade farm craft vendors sell at market by invitation only. Click on the Information page to download a copy of the farmers' market rules, fee information and application form. Contact Market Manager Pauline Wood at (704) 821-6430 or by e-mail at email@example.com if you have questions.
What do donations and fundraisers help pay for at the market?
We hope you agree that the experience you get shopping for locally grown food at the Matthews Community Farmers' Market is pretty unique. But maintaining and operating the area's largest and most diverse growers-only farmers' market isn't inexpensive.
We carefully spend the funds we have to keep the market running well and growing wisely while providing our customers with a blend of fresh market place and community gathering spot we believe is an asset to downtown Matthews.
Fees from vendors and money raised by selling t-shirts, tote bags and beverages cover a portion of the market's operating budget. Money raised through our peach and apple fundraisers each year fills in the difference.
Specifically, the money raised helps pay the market's monthly rent on the Community House, cost of market tents and supplies, repairs, insurance; part-time market management's salary, taxes; site maintenance for the market and parking lot, website and e-newsletter, advertising, utilities bills, cost of cooking demonstrations and various minor expenses.
The farmers' market is operated by a non-profit corporation - Matthews Community Farmers' Market, Inc. - which is run by a board of directors made up of farmer members. A market manager/executive director oversees the day-to-day operation of the market.
Did You Know……that the farmers’ market has such a wonderful location through the generosity of downtown property owner David Blackley of Renfrow Hardware and the late Frank Renfrow. They have provided the market free use of the site since it’s inception 22 years ago. When more parking became a necessity for our ever-growing market, the pair made the grassy lot across Cotton Gin Alley available for our customers to use. Without that generosity of both men in so many ways, we doubt the market would have grown and thrived as successfully as it has.
Did You Know……that the Community House building is about 100 years old and was once an open structure under which cotton farmers used to congregate while their cotton was being ginned? There used to be a cotton gin on the grassy lot the market now uses for parking (hence the street name Cotton Gin Alley). Eventually the open structure was closed in and used to house a cotton gin worker and his family. In more recent years, the structure was rented out to a variety of businesses. In recent years, the market has rented part of the building in the rear of the market. Renovations by the market transformed part of the structure into the market’s Community House, featuring market information and fundraising items like beverages and t-shirts.
Did You Know...... that all of the chefs who do our cooking demonstrations and the musicians who play so beautifully each market day volunteer their time and talents? We are so grateful for all that they add to the market and to our customers' enjoyment.
Did You Know……that while some of our vendors are full time farmers and bakers, others grow or bake for market in addition to working as chefs, doctors, teachers, engineers, landscapers, business owners, salespersons and computer specialists? Others are retirees and still others are homemakers. All have a passion for the products they produce and bring to market and all contribute their unique talents to help make the Matthews Community Farmers’ Market the special place that it is.
Did You Know……that the market is run by a private non profit corporation made up of farmers members that oversees the operation of the market. A market manager is in charge of day-to-day operation of the market.
Did You Know……that the market’s board of directors conducts farm inspections before new growers are allowed to sell at market to ensure they grow the products they intend to sell and that they grow them within 50 miles of Matthews. We allow only locally grown produce and meats sold by the farmers who grow them so you know where your food comes from.
Chefs' Profound Impact On Local Farms And Our Farmers' Market
If you're a regular customer, you've become accustomed to seeing many of the area's top chefs at the farmers' market. You've enjoyed their cooking demonstrations, you've marveled at their techniques and recipe ideas. But do you realize the huge impact these chef have made on the farmers' market as a whole and on our farmers individually?
Sometimes they are dressed in their chef whites, but sometimes not. The average shopper may not recognize them when they shop the market, but chefs are a catalyst for the market's success and in educating the public about the importance of local foods and supporting local farms.
"The chefs who shop at our market and buy from local farmers have been a principal force in driving the local foods movement," says grower Sam Koenigsberg of New Town Farms. "They have made the market what it is today and have helped the market continue to grow. They have that platform - through a plate of good food - to educate people. That plate of local food is the window back to the farm. Chefs have an enormous role in advancing the market and making more local food available for you, the consumer."
Sam says market customers who watch chefs pick up boxes of produce for their restaurants or take produce to use in their cooking demos shouldn't be concerned that chefs are skimming the cream off the top of his harvest.
"Chefs order on Friday and we pick their orders separately, over and above what we pick to sell at market, and it doesn't affect the quantity of food we bring for our booth," he says, adding that when he has small amounts of an in-demand product, he saves it for customers waiting in line at his booth for the market to open. "It's the worm for the early birds."
"People should appreciate what chefs are doing in supporting local farmers and using local produce in their restaurants," he says.