Local farmers, bakers and people who want their food fresh can flock to the white tents next to Renfrow Hardware in downtown Matthews this Saturday when the Matthews Community Farmers' Market opens for the season.
This year the market will also celebrate a new year-round schedule.
The rain-or-shine nonprofit farmers market, celebrating its 20th anniversary this year, is returning to its regular season hours: 7:15 a.m. to noon every Saturday through November.
The market also will be open 8-10 a.m. every Saturday, December through March.
Previously, the Matthews Winter Farmers' Market - the December through March segment - was open only every two weeks.
In June and July, there also will be a mid-week market 10 a.m.-noon on Wednesdays.
In the new season, more than 40 vendors - all from within 50 miles of Matthews - will be offering their wares.
"Our customers can't wait," said Market Manager Pauline Wood.
There will be a number of opening-day activities, including a 7:30 a.m. "Chef's Secrets" demonstration by chef Josh Keilman and an 8:30 a.m. seasonal-cooking demonstration by chef Luca Annunziata, both of Passion8 Bistro in Fort Mill.
Dwight and Trent Moody of Mint Hill will be playing bluegrass tunes starting at 9 a.m., and there will be a morning-long Cookbook Swap at the market information booth.
Wood said the farmers market is going into spring with a varied selection of produce, including onions, carrots, greens, lettuce, turnips and more. By May, when the weather warms up, the market will be stuffed full, she said.
The Matthews Community Farmers' Market, which became a registered nonprofit in 1999, has two guiding principles, Wood said.
First, it wants to provide a place for local farmers to sell what they grow directly to customers, making sure that farming, which has become less and less common in the greater Charlotte area, can still thrive in the community.
And second, it wants to offer a place where residents can buy their food and know who's growing it.
In addition to produce, the farmers market offers meat, eggs, goat cheeses, farm crafts, pottery, baskets, herbal soaps and more.
Though buying produce straight from the vendors isn't always the cheapest option in town, customers get their money's worth, Wood said.
"You shouldn't come to the farmers market looking for a bargain," said Wood. "What we sell is very high-quality, just-picked, locally grown food. ... You are buying it from the person who grew it, raised it or baked it. ... There's a lot you get for your food dollar."
The Matthews farmers market runs with the help of about 25 volunteers, and the market always is looking for more.
Volunteers help vendors unload, run some of the activities and help everyone get cleaned and packed up at the end of the morning.
"They really make a big difference," said Wood.
The volunteers and vendors try to make the market more of a destination, a community gathering spot.
Prominent chefs in the area offer cooking demonstrations as well as lessons on basic cooking skills, such as how to make pan sauces, break down a chicken or make pesto.
"A lot of customers just come and hang out for the morning," said Wood. "We want them to feel like it's coming and meeting with a group of friends, not just a place to shop. ... It's like putting on a huge party every Saturday."