In celebration of the Rosa Parks Farmers Market grand opening Tuesday, community members and special guests – including Parks’ niece, Sheila McCauley Keys – kicked off the season with fresh, healthy food.
The farmers market, which will open every Tuesday from 10 a.m. to 2 p.m. through September, will be in the parking lot of the Mecklenburg County Health Department’s Northwest campus, at 2845 Beatties Ford Road.
Because of its proximity to Rosa Parks Place Street, Reggie Singleton, a public health policy coordinator for Mecklenburg County Health Department, said it was important to get the Parks family’s blessing.
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“Her niece feels that her aunt would be honored to have this market named in her honor, but even more so honored that her name would be placed on such an important thing,” Singleton said. Keys traveled from Michigan to attend the event.
Mecklenburg County Health Department and Johnson C. Smith University are the market’s sponsors, with funding from Blue Cross Blue Shield of North Carolina.
Though a separate market altogether, the site has previously been the grounds for REACH 2010, a similar initiative to address nutrition-related problems in the community through fresh food and produce. Community members worked to bring back a farmers market to the area after a long hiatus.
“We are so glad to have this market open again,” said J’Tanya Adams, a member of the market’s advisory board and a representative of Historic West End Partners. “Knowing where your food comes from is very important.”
Guests at the opening included Ronald Carter, president of Johnson C. Smith University; Marcus Plescia, Health Department director; city and county elected officials; and other health food advocates and supporters from the Beatties Ford Road community.
Parks was an advocate for a diet centered on vegetarianism, Singleton said, and this focus on health and providing nutritious foods affordably was one of the reasons for establishing the market. Six farmers from the region have signed on, including Brewington Family Farm in Concord and Shady Oaks Farm in Newton.
In addition to fresh fruits and vegetables, meats, jams and jellies will also be available. The market also establishes secure relationships with local farmers, Singleton said.
“This is the city of Charlotte’s moment to support the market today, and also in the future,” he said. “This ensures that everyone has the opportunity to have fresh, affordable food.”