The fickle weather might belie the arrival of springtime, but the official start of farmers market season on Saturday, April 6, signals the undeniable entrance of the new season. (Do you hear that, fickle weather?!) Soon, local farmers and vendors will come bearing bounties of colorful produce, fresh cut flowers and local goods to markets all around Charlotte, each with their own distinct personality. Grab a coffee and your favorite reusable bag — it's off to market we go.
Matthews Community Farmers Market
Located off North Trade Street in downtown Matthews
Hours: Saturdays, 7:15 a.m.-12 p.m.
Tucked in the heart of downtown Matthews, the Matthews Community Market is the quintessential folksy fixture of the community. Entering its 22nd season, you can find dedicated purists and local chefs waiting in line for the just-picked produce that is carefully sourced from within 50 miles of Matthews. According to market manager Pauline Woods, "Some of Charlotte's best chefs shop here."
Mother and daughter Denise and Angela Blanken love the market for its friendly atmosphere and quaint feel. Denise, holding a basket teeming with beet greens and local eggs, claims she has "seen the vendors' kids grow up," since she first began attending the market 22 years ago.
"There is something distinctly community here," says attendant Christine Morgan. "I trust where the produce is coming from."
Matthews is a short drive from Charlotte, but the old-fashioned vibe will have you feeling like you drove the DeLorean to simpler times.
Atherton Mill Market
2104 South Blvd.
Hours: Tuesday, 10 a.m.-7 p.m., Wednesday-Friday, 10 a.m.-2 p.m., Saturday, 9 a.m.-2 p.m.
Housed in the bustling and ever-popular South End neighborhood, the pet-friendly Atherton Mill Market is fast becoming an urban oasis for local food, offering an eclectic mix of local farmers and retail businesses.
Laura Neff, regular attendant and outreach manager of local vegan-food delivery service Nourish Charlotte, says she loves getting to market right when it opens on Saturday mornings. "The tables are overflowing with brightly colored produce, everyone is smiling, and it just feels good. There's a strong community feel there, too, and that's a huge draw for me."
Market manager Lynn Caldwell aspires to grow beyond the typical farmers market concept by expanding market hours to five days a week. "We hope to become more of a European style market where people come in a few times a week to get their daily provisions."
Charlotte Regional Farmers Market
1801 Yorkmont Road
Hours: Tuesday-Saturday, 8 a.m.-6 p.m.
Located off Yorkmont Road, this is the largest farmers market in Charlotte, with a wide array of local producers (including some of the best farmers in the region) peppered with some not-so-local vendors whose selections rival the local grocery stores with hard-to-find ethnic ingredients and budget-friendly prices.
A wonderful and diverse mix of Charlotteans frequent this market, and if you time it right, you can catch some well-known names, like Charlotte Observer food writer Kathleen Purvis, who visits regularly. After picking up your provisions, wander around the captivating greenery shed, quirky craft barn or grab some kettle corn to munch on during your drive home.
Davidson Farmers Market
120 S. Main St., Davidson, next to town hall, between Main and Jackson streets.
Hours: Saturdays 8 a.m.-12 p.m.
If you live in the Lake Norman area or just want to take a trip up north, the Davidson Farmers Market is worth it. This growers-only market centered around the idyllic setting of Davidson College abides by strict standards of recruiting its producers from within 100 miles of downtown Davidson. Find humanely-raised meats, fresh-cut flowers, local honey and a chilled-out, well-to-do crowd that is friendly and welcoming.
Kings Drive Farmers Market
939 S. Kings Drive
Hours: Saturdays 7 a.m.-3 p.m.
The Simpson family has been running this market at the intersection of Morehead and Kings Drive since 1941. If you like 'em small and want to stay in the neighborhood, the King's Drive Farmers Market is a great alternative to the grocery store and larger farmers markets, which can often be a drive. Though no claims are made about the origins of its produce selection, you can find some of the best prices in produce here. Come summertime, the watermelon here is a worth a trip all by itself.
Bailey Road Farmers Market
9606 Bailey Road, near the intersection of Statesville and Bailey roads
Hours: Saturdays 7 a.m.-12 p.m.
The organizers of this newly hatched parking-lot market are hoping to develop a festival-like feel. Sisters Sam and Charlie Marshall, owners of Coffeehouse LKN in Cornelius, decided there was something missing in their little corner of Lake Norman. "There are nearly 2,000 houses in this neighborhood, and we're trying to create something that brings these people together," Charlie says.
So far, a few familiar farmers and retail businesses have joined to show their support. Stay tuned.