Longtime readers know I talk about this place all the time, but for the benefit of newer readers, I want to do a complete post about a true treasure we have Downtown: The Memphis Farmers Market. The Market is held every Saturday from 7 AM to 1 PM from April to November at the corner of Front and G.E. Patterson. This coming Saturday is Opening Day.
When you think of a farmers market, many of you probably imagine a few guys in overalls standing at tables selling cabbage and radishes and squash. And it’s true, that stuff is there: If any kind of fresh produce is grown by farmers in the Mid-South region, you will probably find it for sale at the Memphis Farmers Market. You will have no problem getting your fruit and veggie fix there. However, there is so much more to the market than just that. It has been named one of the ten best farmers markets in the United States. Allow me to explain why.
There are people I know who get most of their week’s grocery shopping done at the market – and they are NOT vegetarians. There are plenty of meat vendors who sell at the market. One of them, a seafood vendor I believe, has a refrigerated truck you can walk into and pick out what you want. Pretty much every cut of beef and pork can be found at the market, lamb, chicken, you name it. If it goes moo or baa or oink, it’s probably sold at the market. Fresh eggs can be found there as well. Of course sausage and bacon are on the list of vendor offerings.
The meats are great for grilling season. Last November, the day of the Memphis-Navy game, one of my Facebook friends posted pictures of meats he purchased from a vendor named Pigasus. He was going to take them to tailgating at Tiger Lane to put on the grill. Smart purchase!
By the way, if you don’t eat meat, Pigasus sells BBQ tofu as well. That’s one Farmers Market item you will never see me buy, but for those who eat that stuff, the Market has it.
There are vendors who sell really yummy-looking artisanal breads. I go there and see loaves baked with cheese on top – yum! Ciabatta is a popular option at the bread vendor booths too.
If you want to do a little dipping, check out the booths selling hot sauces, salsas, and other hand-made, locally-produced condiments. Need some dry rub for your meat? The Market’s got you covered there too.
Perhaps you stopped by the bread vendors to pick up breakfast… if you did, you ought to check out booths selling homemade preserves, jellies, and apple butter too. You might also want to take a look at vendors selling homemade tarts and other sweet treats.
Of course, what’s a lunch or dinner without cheese? The Market’s got that too. There is a vendor selling a variety of cheeses each week. Yes they have goat cheese for those of you who prefer it on your plate.
The Market is obviously a great source for people who like to cook… but what if you don’t? No problem, the Market has you in mind too. There are vendors who sell pre-prepared meals, ready to heat and eat.
It’s well known that fans of fresh produce like me love the Farmers Market’s offerings… but what if you want to take it a step farther and grow your own? No problem, the Market has tomato plants and other fruit and veggie plants, as well as seeds for sale. And if you need advice on growing your own food, you’ve got the experts, right there!
Flowers for your dinner table? Check. Several of the produce vendors sell fresh flowers as well. Don’t miss the beautiful sunflowers!
Crafts vendors? Yep, the Market has those too. Stop by the pottery booth and you will meet my friends Gary and Boo, two of the kindest people in all of Downtown. Other booths offer items like bird houses and wind chimes that you can use to decorate your porch and yard.
Are you a coffee lover? Purchase gourmet coffees at the Market, either hot in a cup or in bean form for use in your coffee maker at home.
There’s plenty of treats for you at the Market, but what about the pups? The Market has them in mind as well. There are vendors who sell locally made dog biscuits. Some of the meat vendors sell dog bones. Dogs (other than service dogs) aren’t allowed in the main shopping area, but the Market has a pet-sitting service where you can leave your animal with a dog walker. The dogs have a nice grassy area to play in while you shop.
Or maybe you don’t have a dog, but were thinking about adopting one? You can do that at the Market too. Various dog adoption and fostering services set up shop each week next to the pet-sitting area.
The Market is one place where you don’t have to worry about shopping on an empty stomach… and your stomach might not be empty by the time you leave. Food trucks set up shop in the back each week. These vary, but the Rock’n Dough pizza truck is there most Saturdays. They serve breakfast pizza slices as well as traditional ones. The Central BBQ truck makes regular appearances. Last year they had a tandoori truck that sold Indian-inspired dishes, but it stopped coming in July. I miss the tandoori truck. Even their vegetarian dishes were good.
The So Fresh juice truck was another regular in the food truck area, selling smoothies and juices, as well as add-ons to provide protein and other things the body needs. For vegans, they have vegan forms of protein too. I will advise you that the juice truck is VERY popular and during peak times, waits for a smoothie can run as long as 25 minutes.
One of my favorite things to do is buy a smoothie and then walk around and talk to people I know who are at the Market to shop. I don’t buy a lot of fresh produce myself but I love the Market because it’s an opportunity to run into my friends – friends who don’t go to bars like my regular hangouts like the Blind Bear and Silly Goose, but who I can count on seeing at the Market.
Speaking of the Blind Bear, quick story – my Sunday bartender B-RAD at the Bear saw a photo of me walking around with a smoothie at the Market last year, and commented that I looked menacing. That led me to write a rockabilly song called “Farmers Market Boogie” whose opening line is “Well, I’m the bad, bad man with a smoothie in his hand.”
I’m not the only songwriter at the Market… did I mention there is live music by talented local musicians? Don’t worry, it’s music that is appropriate for the setting… no one is going to be plugging in amps and blasting out a cover of “War Pigs” by Sabbath anytime soon (much to the disappointment of my BBQ teammate Budd Ha). It’s acoustic music by one or maybe two performers. They have two to three live music acts each week at the Farmers Market.
Not only can you buy all kinds of different products at the Market, but you can learn how to cook from some of the best. There are cooking demos on some Saturdays. Chef Felicia Willett from Felicia Suzanne’s is known to give several demos a year, cooking with her line of Flo’s products.
By the way, if you have any doubt how legit the Market is, come down there early in the morning and look around. You may well see Felicia shopping for her restaurant. You may see my friend Michael Patrick shopping for his kitchen at Rizzo’s Diner. You may see Patrick and Deni from the Majestic Grille picking out some locally-sourced veggies. When the chefs themselves shop the Market, you can be confident that there’s good stuff there.
There are activities for the kids every week, so they won’t get bored while you decide which bag of kale is the one you want. There are crafts activities where they can make market-themed items to take home. There’s also a vendor that sells frozen pops that is a hit with the kids – and the grownups too. The weeks the smoothie truck isn’t there, I get a walk-around pop instead.
There are also health demos throughout the year. Health professionals set up shop and give you tips on cooking healthier, preventing heart disease, quitting smoking, all sorts of good things to know.
The Market partners with local organizations to bring other fun demos as well. One week last year there was a performance by Opera Memphis. Another week there was a free yoga class. You just never know what you’re going to find at the Market. However, if you want to know, you can sign up for their mailing list at the bottom right corner on MFM’s home page. You can also keep up by reading this blog. Every Thursday or Friday I post what you can expect to find at the Market that Saturday.
You can also talk to the people at the information booth at the Market. If you like what you see and want to show your support, you can buy MFM T-shirts, shopping bags, koozies, and other goodies. I have two Farmers Market T’s that I wear proudly.
Every year the Market holds a race called Crop Hop 5K that is one of their main fundraisers. After running the race, runners are treated to locally-brewed beer and a buffet. (There’s also an option to skip the run if you’re mainly there to eat and drink.) After the 2015 after-party ended, I was hanging out at Max’s Sports Bar nearby and a runner told me the food was unusually good compared to most race after-parties. They even had a Texan compliment the brisket that was served. You may have read somewhere about the team who did the cooking; they’re called the Moody Ques, I believe. The Moody Ques also cooked for the Market’s fall fundraiser in 2015, MFM@Ten. That reminds me… did you know this will be the Market’s 11th season?
When the weather isn’t scorching hot, I can often be found sitting on the side wall at the Market, sipping my smoothie, eating food truck fare, checking in on Swarm and Facebook, catching up with friends. Due to schedule and weather I don’t make it every week, but when I do I am usually there mid to late morning, departing around 10:40 to meet up with my “DAWG” John D at Bardog when it opens. Sometimes, when a friend comes to the Market with me or if I get caught up in a really good conversation, I will push my departure past 11 and text my “DAWG” to try and save me a seat if he can.
If you read my blog all the time but have never met me, come introduce yourself if you see me there! I love meeting my readers. If you ask nicely maybe I will serenade you with “Farmers Market Boogie” too.
I hope to see you on Opening Day! Back tomorrow with a regular news post.