Robert Luke has witnessed the rapid growth of the Ballantyne area during the last few years, but despite the upscale area's many amenities, one thing was missing: a farmers market.
Last year Luke brought broccoli to the suburbs by opening the Meeting Street Market at Cedar Walk, a live/work community on the corner of Ardrey Kell and Marvin roads.
"Rather than wait, I chose to start my own market in a place where I'm fortunate enough to work and live," said Luke, who is manager/sales associate for Meeting Street Homes and Communities. "It's the perfect location. We have thousands of homeowners here within walking distance and a lot of open space and parking."
The response to the market, held Tuesdays from 4 p.m. until dark, was impressive. The number of shoppers grew to more than a thousand each week last July, and vendors consistently sold out before 8 p.m.
The market will reopen May 4 for the 2010 season, and the main draw will still be fresh produce from eight area farms. Customers can also purchase beef, pork, chicken and ostrich from multiple meat vendors. For those with a sweet tooth, bakers will sell scones, muffins, cookies, cheesecake and fresh-baked bread.
From chocolate and homemade pickles to fresh flowers and soy candles, Meeting Street will have something for everyone. Local artisans will display handmade crafts. Chefs from area restaurants will cook up dishes using ingredients from the vendors for all to sample.
Luke said he has enjoyed watching Meeting Street evolve beyond a farmers market and into a bonding event.
"I see people gathering and enjoying time with their friends, parents spending time with their children and neighbors meeting new friends with an immediate common bond."
As a result, Luke is incorporating other events into the market to encourage the trend.
In June, a Veggie Car Derby will have children and parents building racecars from produce and racing against each other for prizes. Monthly food drives and other charity events will be held to give back to other communities.
The "green" movement sweeping the nation highlights the idea that local food is more nutritious than food shipped thousands of miles to grocery stores; in addition, buying from area farms supports the local economy.
"I have a huge respect for our farmers in this market," Luke said. "There's a work ethic and a very organic way to life that I had never imagined could exist in today's world."
"To help provide a platform and a place to support all that they do has been a huge honor."
Luke said his biggest challenge has been lack of funding for marketing.
Vendors pay a small annual fee, but that money goes toward new marketing efforts. Luke said he has some ideas this year to reach the masses and make Meeting Street even more eventful and positive.
"This is something that everyone in this area needs to know about," Luke said. "It creates a healthier lifestyle for them and supports our hard-working farmers and artisans. This is such a positive event. We just need to reach our shoppers."