The CY Community Farmers Market returns with a renewed sense of purpose
By Angela Knipple
After a successful first year, the Cooper-Young Community Farmers Market (CYCFM) will be opening for its second season at the corner of Cooper St. and Walker Ave. in the parking lot of First Congregational Church on April 30.
Most of last year’s vendors will be returning, and many of them are planning to offer more products than ever before. Las Delicias, makers of those incomparable chips and dips, plans to bring tamales and perhaps ceviche. Bill Albrecht, who sold worm castings and composting supplies last year, will also sell vegetables this year. CYCFM board member Lori Greene says, “Bill’s growing these vegetables in his wonderful worm compost. I can’t wait to see how gorgeous they’re going to be.”
Some new vendors will be familiar faces as Farmer Bert, Bert Dinkins, will have his own booth this year. Dinkins worked last year with Greene at her Downing Hollow Farm in preparation for running his own farm. True Vine Farms is another new vendor. True Vine is a family farm from North Mississippi that plans to offer sustainably grown produce and eggs from their flock.
Also new at CYCFM this year is an increased sense of purpose and dedication. While farmers markets bring fresh produce into a community, in some communities the need for that produce is more profound. CYCFM straddles two food deserts. The 2008 Farm Bill defined a food desert as “an area in the United States with limited access to affordable and nutritious foods.” While it may be hard to think of any part of Midtown falling under that definition, for many Memphians without personal transportation, it’s not just an idea; it’s reality.
In the media it seems that, more often than not, farmers markets are portrayed as being the domain of foodies. They’re seen as being more expensive and less convenient to shop at. But for community markets like CYCFM, the mission is to be just that – a community market that meets the needs of the community. “It’s easy to look around the community and see the need and talk about fixing it. But just talking isn’t a solution. It’s time for us to walk the talk,” says Sue Easley, CYCFM board member.
One way that CYCFM is helping is by becoming a vendor in the Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program (SNAP). Formerly the Food Stamp program, SNAP uses debit cards to distribute benefits to program participants. A cardholder can buy food and non-alcoholic beverages from any participating vendor. By working with GrowMemphis, CYCFM, along with the South Memphis Farmers Market and the Urban Farms Market, expect to be able to accept electronic benefit transfer purchases. SNAP opens the markets to customers who would not otherwise be able to shop there. Residents of area food deserts will be able to purchase much-needed fresh produce. Additionally, GrowMemphis has received a grant that will allow at least some of the dollars spent with food stamps to be doubled – sending more produce home with more customers.
Fresh fruits and vegetables are an undeniably important part of a healthy diet for people of all ages. Also important is a sense of community. CYCFM plans to continue building that as well. As Greene says, “Having a market like this makes a community more livable. And Midtown is just a natural home for our market.” The market is entirely volunteer-supported. “We want the community to be as involved as possible. Our volunteers are what make the market run,” says Greene. If you would like to be a part of the team at the market, email email@example.com.