A picture can do a lot of things. In my case, this picture, of a woman leading her young sons away from the Matthews Community Farmers’ Market on a Saturday morning in the mid-1990s, caught my attention about a new thing happening in the Charlotte.
Starting in the late 1980s, I had become a farmers’ market fan, usually at the Charlotte Regional Farmers Market that was close to my house. But I’d gotten used to picking around carefully, looking for things that were grown here rather than brought in from other states. By the early 1990s, I started hearing rumbles about a new market in Matthews that was a little different: Everything was locally grown and sold by the people who grew it. I didn’t take it seriously, though: Matthews? Who drives that far for vegetables?
Then photographer Jeff Siner grabbed that shot and I started to wonder. One Saturday, with my own toddler son in tow, I drove over to check it out. I’ll always remember this moment: A farmer in a straw hat was standing at a wooden table covered with a mountain of gorgeous broccoli. My son, maybe 2 at the time, saw it and crowed, “Broccoli!” so loud, everyone around us laughed. But my husband hates broccoli, so I sadly pushed on with my stroller.
A few seconds later, the farmer chased me down with a big bunch.
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“Ma’am,” he said solemnly, “any child that loves broccoli that much ought to have broccoli.” He handed the bunch to my son in his stroller, who held it up like a championship trophy while we bumped over the open field and back to the car.
That farmer was Sammy Koenigsberg, one of the co-founders (he always insists that he’s a co-founder, even though all of us who know the market know he was the driving force behind it). He’s still selling broccoli and everything else his Union County farm, New Town Farms, can produce every Saturday. The market has grown up to be a draw and inspiration for anyone in the area who’s serious about locally grown food. And my son, now an adult, can still eat an entire field of broccoli by himself, while my husband still won’t touch it.
All of that is a long way to say: This year is the 25th anniversary of the Matthews Community Farmers’ Market, founded in 1991 in the field at 188 N. Trade St. (Market hours: 8 a.m.-noon Saturdays through November, then 8-10 a.m. in the winter.) They’ll do things all summer to celebrate and to raise $25,000 for market improvements.
The anniversary celebrations kick off at 9 a.m. Saturday (as in tomorrow), with a special Barbecue Sandwich Fundraiser cooked by chef Charles Semail, a 9 a.m. tribute to David Blackley of Renfrow Hardware, market neighbor and longtime supporter, and a proclamation by Matthews Mayor Jim Taylor.
If you’ve never been to the Matthews market, don’t wait another 25 years to find your way there. If it’s still too far, you can find a list of all the farmers markets in the area online here.
And if you stop by the Matthews market this summer, tell Sammy Koenigsberg and market manager Pauline Wood thanks, for all that broccoli and a whole lot more.