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VOL. 125 | NO. 68 | Thursday, April 8, 2010

Cooper-Young Preps for New Farmer’s Market

By Andy Meek

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Memphis is a few weeks away from getting another farmer’s market.

After months of planning, the Cooper-Young Community Farmer’s Market is preparing to secure the final approvals it needs to open its season May 1 in the parking lot of First Congregational Church.

Part of the church’s lot at 1000 S. Cooper St. is zoned for residential use. So the Memphis-Shelby County Land Use Control Board will vote today on a use variance for the market, which has been months in the making and has attracted support from dozens of volunteers.

The LUCB meeting will start today at 10 a.m. at City Hall, 125 N. Main St. The board’s decision then goes to the Memphis City Council. If the council approves it, the plan is to hold the market every Saturday from May 1-Oct. 31.

Farmers would peddle their wares from 8 a.m. to 1 p.m. Volunteers would start setting up no earlier than one hour before the market opens and finish taking everything down no more than one hour after it closes.

The new addition to Cooper-Young would add another venue to a growing line of farmer’s markets that starts Downtown and stretches east. They include the Downtown Farmer’s Market at Central Station, the Botanic Garden’s farmer’s market in East Memphis and another in Cordova at Agricenter International.

But that’s a good thing, said Robin Rodriguez, whose group Slow Food Memphis is supporting the Cooper-Young market this year. “In our view, the more markets a city and a region has, the better,” she said.

Chalk up some of that enthusiasm to several factors, like a growing interest in community activities, pedestrian-friendly neighborhoods and more awareness of health and wellness issues.

Rodriguez said the project has a board of directors and about 35 volunteers.

Word of mouth is building via social media outlets. The market’s Facebook page has picked up more than 2,100 fans.

One posting asked supporters for their ideas for the market. Suggestions ranged from jams and jellies to goat cheese, eggs, fruits and artisan bread options.

One person asked about the possibility of a seed swap. Another requested demonstrations on vegetable-growing.

“We think it’s going to be great for the businesses around Cooper-Young,” Rodriguez said. “Just think about all the people that are going to be walking around and want a place to eat lunch and pop into this store, pop into that one.”

Ben Vaughn, the owner of Cooper-Young restaurants Grace and Au Fond, said a farmer’s market in the neighborhood deserves support.

Maggie Cardwell, director of the Cooper-Young Community Association, said excitement is growing about the coming attraction, which also will include music and performances.

“People here like to do things where they live, so they’re excited about the idea they can walk to this market or ride their bikes, as opposed to having to venture across town,” Cardwell said.

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