MATTHEWS – The Matthews Community Farmers’ Market is getting an unexpected facelift, thanks to the generosity of market friends, vendors and customers who want to see the market successfully open for a 23rd season next month.
Recent heavy snowfall in the area caused seven tents at the North Trade Street site to collapse – only three could be saved. Four tents, mostly located in the middle of the site, were a total loss for the market.
“This hit when we really didn’t have a whole lot of funds available,” Pauline Wood, market manager, said. “We let our customers and friends know about what happened and basically just said ‘We need your support.’”
And people responded. Initial estimates to replace the tents were about $4,000, Wood said. But thanks to the generosity of the community, donations came in topping $11,500, giving market leaders the opportunity to upgrade the site altogether. Now, in the midst of those upgrades, this year’s regular season market opening day has been delayed to April 19, where hours will change to 8 a.m. to noon, to ensure all work is completed before the site sees foot traffic. The winter market will continue through April 12, Saturdays 8 to 10 a.m., and will be held in the parking lot as work is being completed.
The additional funds will bring upgrades to the site, including redesigned tents along the market’s perimeter, with four-by-four posts instead of metal legs for a more finished look, Wood said. Adding wooden posts around current tents also will ensure the market won’t have the same damages in the future, as the legs of the collapsed tents are what failed this year.
Market leaders also took the opportunity to regrade the site’s grounds.
“We’ve always had a drainage problem,” Wood said. “It basically needed a good regrading and that’s what we were able to do. We also had it covered in pit gravel.”
But the biggest change and addition to the market’s 23rd season will be the large centerpiece tent that will replace the four damaged smaller tents. That tent, like those along the perimeter, also will have four-by-four-wooden outer posts and include a canopy better designed to beat potentially harsh weather. The new tent will be 20 feet by 40 feet, replacing the four smaller 10 -feet-by-20-feet tents.
“This has been the toughest winter we have ever had to deal with,” Wood said not only of snowfall and rain, but also of the low temperatures for vendors. Matthews has been home to a winter market for the past seven years. “We have an OK amount of produce, but you know, we do have enough products that don’t depend on the weather, like our meat farmers, baked goods vendors, some artisans and homemade goods and free-range chicken eggs.”
The market includes about 42 vendors throughout the year that sell vegetables, meats and poultry, chef-prepared food, baked goods, plants and flowers, other farm products and hand-made goods.
Other recent changes to the appearance of the farmers’ market came with the help of the town of Matthews, which paid to renovate the front and rear entrances of the venue. The project, part of the town’s wayfinding initiative, included new signage and other beautification efforts. The $70,000 project, paid through the town’s tourism funds, included new brick columns and fencing, entryway and signage. Landscaping also is included in those funds, and will be completed soon, weather permitting.