Fresh produce, baked goods and handmade crafts are returning to downtown Conway with the announcement of a new farmers market coming to Front Street on Saturday.
Lionel “Peewee” Smith was one of the founding members of the original Conway Farmers Market nearly 30 years ago.
This summer he’s at it again. After meeting with Conway’s Chief of Staff Jack Bell and Kim Williams, president of the Downtown Partnership, Smith said he realized there was a need for a smaller farmers market downtown.
The Conway Farmers Market used to set up in the parking lot at Main and Parkway streets, Smith said, but outgrew the space and moved to the Antioch Baptist Church parking lot last year.
In January of 2013, with the District Court expanding proceedings from three to five days a week, and an increase in business occupancy downtown, Williams said, “parking was at a premium.”
Williams also said farmers and customers would often get too hot on the asphalt parking lot.
Smith has organized the new Downtown Conway Farmers & Crafts Market with these past experiences in mind.
The new market will be located in a vacant grassy lot owned by Covington Properties at 1132 Front Street next to the Patio Cafe on Tuesdays, Thursdays and Saturdays from 7 a.m. to noon.
Smith said if he were to pick “the number one, excellent location” to have a farmers market, 1132 Front Street would be it.
“There are places for people to park where it won’t impose on others,” he said.
Williams said the new farmers market would be a good addition to downtown Conway.
“Customers will be able to walk from booth to booth along the sidewalks, and stop for breakfast at the Patio Cafe,” she said.
Among the farmers market vendors is Roberta Coyne, owner of Main Street Bakery. Coyne also serves on the Downtown Conway Farmers & Crafts Market board, overseeing baked goods.
Coyne will be selling fresh muffins and breads using locally grown blueberries, pecans and zucchini.
Coyne participated in the Conway Farmers Market when it was downtown, and is looking forward to the location of this new farmers market. She said she likes that it’s in a grassy area with lots of trees overhead for shade.
“We want it to be a place where people love to come visit with friends, and get local, healthy foods,” she said.
One of the rules set forth by the Downtown Conway Farmers & Crafts Market board is that all foods and crafts must be produced in Faulkner County or within a five-mile radius.
“This market is 100 percent home grown,” Smith said.
So far, Smith has five farmers who have signed up to sell at the market. Produce will consist of “early crops,” he said, such as squash, zucchini, cucumbers, potatoes, onions and green beans.
“As the summer goes on customers can look forward to tomatoes, but for now they’re all green,” he said.
Applications will be available on Saturday for anyone who wants to join the market. Children who want to sell their produce or crafts do not have to pay a set up fee, Coyne said.
“It’s open to everybody and anybody,” Smith said, “even if you have just one little item to sell. We want to promote growing.”