Chelsea Avenue Farmer's Market will showcase fresh foods and community pride

A new farmer’s market slated to open this spring in north Memphis aims to serve the Hollywood-Hyde Park neighborhood and build community pride and support.

Mia Madison is launching the Chelsea Avenue Farmers’ Market on April 20, on a vacant lot at the intersection of Chelsea Avenue and Springdale Street.

Madison grew up in the Hollywood-Hyde Park neighborhood and still has relatives who still live there. She has seen firsthand the area's struggles with food insecurity and has been a longtime advocate for community improvement and reinvestment in North Memphis.

Madison’s relative, who owns the property where the market will be located, wanted to put it to good use, and Madison realized she could increase the neighborhood’s access to locally-grown food and retail.

“This farmers market initiative is really space and opportunity in its truest sense,” she said.

The market will run each Saturday from 8 a.m. until 2 p.m. through October, and offer fresh fruit, vegetables, farm-fresh meat, and space for local vendors. The site is roughly 3.5 miles from the nearest full-service grocery store and would serve adjacent communities like Klondike-Smokey City and northern Vollintine-Evergreen.

It’s also 2.6 miles from the former Overton Park Community Farmer’s Market, which ended operations in October 2018. Rhodes College launched the market in 2012 as part of a food justice initiative and held it at several locations prior to its final home in the park.

Madison attended the Overton Park market as a customer. When she decided in 2018 to start the Chelsea market, she went to Kimberly Kasper, a Rhodes College professor and the former faculty market manager of the Overton Park market, for guidance. Now that the Overton Park market has closed, its leaders are assisting Madison by providing guidance and connections to local vendors. 

“We knew, from the feedback we’d received through the years, that there was a community want and need for a farmer’s market in North Memphis,” Kaspe said. “By closing the Overton Park market, we can use our knowledge and resources to support innovative, collaborative ways to increase food access across the city and within specific neighborhoods,” she added.

Madison is a fourth-generation North Memphian and her education and past employment has focused on her desire to strengthen the community.

She has a bachelor's degree in geography and a master's degree in anthropology from the University of Memphis. In the past, she worked as a director of community information for the Community Foundation of Greater Memphis, as a development planning mapping analyst for Memphis Housing and Community Development, and for the U.S. Census Bureau.

Madison said she is taking a risk and focusing her time and skills on launching the market in hopes it will spark additional investment north Memphis. She'd like to see vacant lots developed and residents to have quality, affordable housing.

"That is what this community deserves," she said.

Madison said she wants the Chelsea market to offer more than retail. She invites nonprofits, schools, community agencies and city leaders to set up tables to share information about services and events. And, she would like the site to become a location for seasonal celebrations, such as a neighborhood Easter egg hunt.

“I want this to be a community space where all people feel comfortable coming,” she said, “and it will offer amenities to a community that has not seen any new development in quite some time. This market is one tactic I am using to challenge developers to come to this area, to come to Chelsea Avenue.”

Madison is a member of a community advisory board for the Neighborhood Collaborative for Resilience (NCR), which is focusing its efforts on increasing mobility, access to resources, healthy neighborhoods and community engagement in specific areas, including north Memphis.

Madison said her work within the NCR gave her the idea to launch a market, and she received a joint letter of support from the NCR’s health workgroup and the health steering committee.

Last fall, Madison and handful of volunteers started preparing the site by removing a tree, mowing and picking up litter and debris. Madison has secured a business license and is seeking growers, farmers and vendors from the neighborhood and throughout the community. She’s posted an application at www.cafarmersmarket.weebly.com and is seeking volunteers to help her finish site work.

Madison currently is covering all expenses related to the market and is seeking donations and grants to offset the costs.

Late last year, nonprofit Ambassadors of Memphis partnered with Madison to apply for a Strong, Prosperous, and Resilient Community Challenge (SPARCC) grant to cover the market’s operating expenses, site preparation, and more.

SPARCC denied the grant application. However, the organization named the market as one of six community projects included in a $20,000 technical assistance grant from SPARCC - NCR which will inform further development of a future operations grant proposal, Madison said.

Memphis Tilth also supports the new market and has provided Madison with information on community growers and farmers, and available market resources.

Memphis Tilth Executive Director Carole Colter said she has worked with Madison on community projects in the past. “When she reached out to me last fall about starting the market, I knew the Overton Park market was closing. I hated to see it go, but I was thrilled to hear a potential new farmer’s market could serve north Memphis,” she said.

“The Chelsea Avenue market has such exciting potential. It will provide an opportunity for community members to access a market space in a walkable and bikeable way, and that is really important,” Colter said.

“I recommend people support this farmer’s market in its mission to support the neighborhood. Even if it is not in your neighborhood, it is still our community,” she added.

Madison said she hopes the market builds on the existing pride of north Memphis and showcases that pride to the larger community.

“I want people from across the county to come here and find value in the farmers’ market and find value in the people here, too. I want people to feel as good about this community as I do,” she said.

Read more articles by Dawn Neuses.

Dawn Neuses is a transplant Memphian and part-time freelance journalist from the Midwest who spent the past year exploring her new home in the Mid-South. Dawn was a reporter for 20 years, covering everything from education to community activism, and enjoys learning something new from every person she meets.
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