A new farmers market has popped up Wednesday afternoons in the parking lot of Mouzon United Methodist Church, at the intersection of E. Woodlawn Road and Selwyn Avenue. It’s a prime location, with steady cross-town commuter traffic, easy access for parents picking up kids from nearby schools and bordering several residential neighborhoods. It’s also perfect timing if, like me, you tend to run out of fresh foods mid-week.
But, why now?
Inspiration for the Selwyn Farmers Market came after surveying the local community about their needs, according to Charles DiRico, Director of Community Engagement at Mouzon UMC. Two ideas kept coming back: community yoga classes and requests for a farmers market.
The church has been hosting free yoga classes twice a week since the fall and, as of mid-April, the market has been up and running.
A grand opening celebration is planned for Wednesday, May 31 and will feature live music, cooking demos and a bouncy castle.
They’re hoping to attract more customers like 9-year-old Luke Eyssen, who stopped by recently with his dad after Tae Kwon Do practice on a quest for fresh fruit.
“I saw it and I was like ‘Ooooh, let’s go!’” Eyssen said.
Starting a market from the ground up
For DiRico, creating a new market from scratch has taken more than six months of planning and learning.
“I certainly didn’t have a course in this in seminary,” he said. “[But] this is what ministry and mission in the church will look like in the future… we just see this as a way of loving our neighbor.”
As DiRico navigated permit requirements with city officials and reached out to organizers of other local markets, he said he found a lot of support for the idea.
“We didn’t want to compete with existing markets and I looked around and there weren’t too many in the area,” DiRico said. “Vendors were looking for something in between [Saturdays.]”
For Beverly McLaughlin, owner of Beverly’s Gourmet Foods, the Wednesday timing has been key. She and her staff sell her line of prepared vegetarian and vegan dishes (like quiche, soups and mind-blowing cauliflower hummus) at seven different markets every week, five of which are on Saturdays. Although her products are also sold at various retail locations, she likes supporting farmers markets and having the opportunity to meet people who haven’t tried her food before.
“That 15 seconds talking to someone is important to me,” said McLaughlin, who also has strong family roots in the farmers market business.
Her great-grandmother helped start the Mecklenburg County Market back in 1937, a daily market which her parents continue to run today.
At a nearby tent, her son Gavin Guiney, a recent Myers Park High School grad, is selling fresh produce like asparagus from Mooresville, tomatoes from Lincolnton county and sweet cantaloupe from South Carolina.
“If it’s local and in season, we’ll have it,” he said. “If it’s not [in season] we’ll try to get it for convenience.”
Here’s what else you can find there
Selwyn Farmers Market offers a surprising variety of products for its size (capped at about 15 vendors, to ensure adequate parking.) If you go, expect items like silky smooth olive oil directly from a family estate in Southern Greece, locally raised meats such as grass-fed beef and cornish hens, honey, gourmet spreads and all natural pet food with ingredients like salmon and brown rice.
Many of the vendors offer samples (don’t miss the dark chocolate sunflower granola at The Bungalow Picnic Company) and will give you the inside scoop on the food you’re buying. At Rocky River Farms stand, for example, owner Greg Stephens shared photos of his free range hens dining on vegetables, grapes and beer grains retrieved from local breweries. He’s dubbed his flock the “Tipsy Chicks” and said their diet and lifestyle produce a brighter, orange colored yolk, and better tasting egg.
As customers recently made their way around the market, Head Pastor Linwood Brooks surveyed the scene and smiled.
“The whole idea is just to bring the community together,” he said. “It’s been fun.”
Selwyn Farmers Market
3100 Selwyn Ave.
Wednesdays, 3 – 7 p.m.
Most vendors accept credit cards and cash.
Photo: Liz Bertrand