Bobby Lanier Farm Park & Market Brings Fresh Food, Live Music to Germantown
I’m in my full glory at a farmers’ market. Over the amaranthine-gray days of winter, my eyes ache for the variegated tableaux of the producers’ booths, each one a fully-edible still life – until I plunge in an interrupting hand, impelled by every nectarous berry, earthy tomato and fleshy peach promising to drip down my chin.
But don’t ask me to play favorites. I’ve sung the merits of most Memphis-area farmers’ markets here before and, truth be told, every one of ’em will steal your heart one way or another. Now there’s one more to love: The Farm Park Market at Bobby Lanier Farm Park in Germantown.
You immediately sense distinction here: Until an access road is complete, you’ll nose behind an elementary school (set your nav to 2740 Cross Country, Germantown) and slink beneath a tree canopy to find the Farm Park, wedged between soccer fields and the school. This little slice of land once held a horse farm.
Pam Beasley, Director of Parks and Recreation for the City of Germantown, says it would have been obvious to turn the land into additional athletic fields. But the city had visions of conservation and sustainability. The 10-acre Farm Park officially opened to the public in 2012.
Inside the Farm Park, a generous gravel path leads to restored farm buildings, community and discovery gardens and a chicken yard. On market nights, shoppers ramble along the path, temporarily lined with producers including Claybrook Farms (black angus beef humanely raised in Covington, Tenn.), Jones Orchard (peaches et al grown in Millington, Tenn.), Wolf River Honey (from Moscow, Tenn.) and assorted bakers, artisans and other regional farmers. Food trucks park near the path’s far end, where a lawn offers tables and chairs, room for kids to run and scheduled live music. Garden talks spark discussion on sustainable gardening, healthful eating and strategies for growing tomatoes, peas, peppers and the like.
“Remember farm stands?” Pam asks me, and the parallel between the memory and where I’m standing comes clear. A farmers’ market surrounded by a farm – even a pocket-sized one – creates an enduring connection.
Opening night, the air was mellow and the crowd was lively. Between producers, we paused at vignettes like this one to take pictures:
We met volunteers in the community garden who devote two hours a week to whatever needs to be done – covering blueberries to thwart birds; planting; harvesting. In rows and raised beds, peppers, tomatoes, lady peas, melons, peanuts and eggplants peeked out at us.
The chicken yard and adjacent “Kiddie Corral” – a grassy area stocked with hula hoops and stick ponies – gripped every kid in attendance. My daughter was so content playing and making friends into the protracted hours of that almost-summer night, we nearly closed the market down. I was in no particular hurry myself.
Hunger eventually pulled us away. As appetizers, we had sucked down pure fruit-and-veggie smoothies blended by Karen Febles (the smile behind the Healthylicious trailer). Course two was set for Memphis’ best pizza (courtesy of the Rock’n Dough Pizza Co. food truck), but Chef Jeremy Denno’s slices proved too crave-able to last. Lucky for us, he also operates a restaurant in East Memphis. We stopped en route home for two gigantic, hickory-fired slices as Jeremy returned in the (empty) food truck. He pledged to bring more pizza to the market moving forward. Opening night had drawn more people than anyone expected.
More to do at the Farm Park
Seasons influence the Farm Park’s event calendar. All summer long, Mary Phillips of Roots Memphis will teach compost-making, planting and harvesting (with farm animal interactions and old-time games sprinkled in) during “Young Farmer Thursdays” (ages 6-12) and “Discovery Fridays” (ages 3-5). Themes, from salsa gardening to garden art to worms, vary weekly. Registration and fees are required (at $10 for each 90-minute session, I’m in). “Sustainable Saturdays” (through Aug. 29) advertise self-guided family activities and volunteer-led tours of the Farm Park.
Otherwise, Bobby Lanier Farm Park is open Tues.-Fri., 8 a.m. to noon; Weds. and Thurs., 5-8 p.m.; Sat. 8 a.m.-3 p.m. and for group programs – ask to arrange. Now I have to ask – which West Tennessee farmers’ markets are your favorites, and why?