The Local Lynx Farmers Market, which takes place in the Barret Cloister at Rhodes College on Thursdays from 2 to 6 p.m. during the school year, was launched last fall by Kimberly Kasper, a Mellon postdoctoral fellow.
In addition to the market, Kasper created a community garden on the campus. Students work both the market and the garden as part of a fellowship program.
"I came here two years ago, and I saw that Memphis was ripe for something like this. Memphis is at an interesting point where I think we will be seeing a massive change in the food system," Kasper says.
The young market is small but growing.
"Since we're a new market, the number of vendors varies each week. We have farmers, arts and crafts vendors, and a food truck as well. There are usually 10 vendors total," Rhodes junior Taylor Sieben says. "I always love having Urban Farms coming out. We sell produce from [Rhodes'] garden, but having them out there gives us a little more variety."
Although the market is on campus, it is intended to reach the entire community.
"The market is open to the public. The usual customer base is students and staff, but we would love to have more community members coming to the market," Sieben says.
"We really want to engage the community with the market. One goal is providing fresh produce in an area that doesn't have grocery stores," Kasper says, referring to nearby neighborhoods that are in a food desert.
To achieve that goal, Kasper is looking to move the market off-campus into the Evergreen neighborhood with the possibility of extending the market, which runs from August to October and from April to May. "The fellowships are year-round, so students can tend the garden in the summer. That means we would be able to run the market year-round as well," Kasper says.
Being based at Rhodes, the program intends to do far more than provide produce to the community.
"We are talking to summer camps that will visit the garden in the mornings then prep lunch for an immediate farm-to-fork experience. The way to truly engage a community is to start with the children," Kasper says.
"For us, it's not just a market or a community garden. They are learning tools for the engagement of our society. They are ways to address social justice," Kasper says.
Another option is available for those looking for fresh organic produce. Farm Truck Organics, a division of Memphis wholesaler Galler Foods, offers delivery that can be scheduled via the web.
"The website allows people to sign up online for weekly or biweekly delivery. If people are going to be out of town, they can go online and skip a delivery. And we can deliver to people's houses or offices. We're flexible," says Harry Sayle, general manager and partner of Farm Truck Organics.
The service functions like a CSA. Customers can order boxes of vegetables, fruit, or a combination. Small, medium, and large boxes are $32, $42, and $52, respectively. Along with the convenience of the delivery service, there is the added advantage of Galler's inventory of other food items.
"They can also order add-ons. About 15 percent of [Galler] inventory is available, including around 30 cheeses and about one-third of our meat cuts. We will be adding more over time. If it's a boutique-type item like a nice balsamic vinegar or a flavored oil, if it's organic or gluten-free, we're going to put it on the website," Sayle says.
Currently, the company delivers to Memphis and the suburbs, going as far as Arlington. A future delivery route is planned for Millington and Atoka. Deliveries are made on Wednesdays, but more days and more routes will be added as demand grows. Sayle sees that happening in the near future.
"Consumers are going to start insisting on stuff. As people become more educated about how food is made and how it's farmed, they are going to demand organic," Sayle says.
One limitation, however, is the availability of locally grown organic produce.
"Organic food is a real hot topic. People want local and they want organic, but in Memphis there aren't a lot of options out there. Our goal for the next 12 months is to provide local organic produce," Sayle says.
Local produce is only a part of Sayle's overall plans.
"The goal of this company is to move Memphis forward in terms of how it eats. Polls always rank Memphis among the unhealthiest cities. I don't like that. I want to help people eat healthy. I want to help farmers grow organic and make money. I want to help producers so we can offer other local items like Bari bread. This is a passion thing for me. It's rewarding," Sayle says.