History of St. Matthews Farmers Market
by Bob Callander
For the majority of the United States, 2007 is remembered for political debates, foreign conflicts that wouldn’t end, a collapsed interstate bridge in Minneapolis, and the tragic shootings on the campus of Virginia Tech. But at home in Louisville, KY, there was some really good news too. That year, a new farmers market opened at the corner of Browns Lane and Shelbyville Road.
The St. Matthews Farmers Market was founded by a small and very determined group of members of Beargrass Christian Church. They had three objectives in mind:
- Creating a festive, family-friendly Saturday event, available free to everyone from late spring to early fall
- Providing a vibrant sales venue for local farmers looking to sell their home-grown produce; at that time, few such markets existed in Louisville or had available space for growth
- Continuing their congregation’s long tradition of reaching outside the church walls to serve the wider Louisville community
It wasn’t easy. In the beginning, members were given many reasons why such a market, in that location, on Saturday mornings, wouldn’t work. Few farmers seemed willing to join an untried and untested market. But the founding members persevered, spending the early spring of 2007 visiting many farm gatherings to talk about the advantages of joining a market in St. Matthews.
Once the largest producers signed on, smaller farmers quickly fell in line. And on a beautiful Saturday morning in June, the market opened to an enthusiastic crowd of customers. Over forty producers and vendors sold vegetables, eggs, honey, breads, cut flowers, jellies and soaps.
Since then, the St. Matthews Farmers Market has doubled in size, and added a variety of local cheeses, meats, baked goods, vinegars, olive oils, berries, wines and prepared foods of every variety. Live music makes the shopping experience even more enjoyable. Rapidly gaining in popularity, the market was voted “Best in Louisville” by Louisville Magazine in 2011 and designated “Number One Urban Market” in the state of Kentucky.
While the market is off to a great beginning, the founders believe there is still plenty of room to grow as the Louisville community becomes more aware of the benefits of shopping and eating locally. As long as the market is good for their church, good for their community and good for local farmers, the St. Matthews Farmers Market will continue to lead the way."Eating is an agricultural act" Wendell Berry
(Source: Wendell Berry’s essay The Pleasures of Eating)
Wendell Berry’s interview with Bill McKibben was the inspiration for starting the St. Matthews Farmers Market. Take a few minutes to listen to the interview, and you’ll see why bringing together farmers, neighbors, and good food was the driving force behind this market.