Charlotte Fresh was driving along Providence Road in the Myers Park area last Friday and saw a sign advertising the cutest little farm stand she ever did see. I couldn’t help myself; I just had to stop the car and pay a visit. I wish I had done this earlier in the season because it turns out that this was no ordinary farm stand – I was looking at a mini farm market with a big mission. It was the Common Grounds Farm Stand, and the mission in their red truck logo reads, “Cultivating abundance for Urban Ministry Center.”
In its second season, Common Grounds is best described as a community farm stand where over 100 volunteers and vendors pitch in to grow, raise, make, donate and sell fresh local produce, dairy items, bread and other goods – with the proceeds benefiting Charlotte’s Urban Ministry Center (UMC). Together, Common Grounds and UMC bring more awareness and immediate help for the homeless in the Charlotte-Mecklenburg area.
Founded by Paige James, Paige Waugh and Sarah Belk, Common Grounds already does a lot of good. The stand raised $25k last year and another $10k in January 2010 for UMC. Of that combined amount, $30k went to fund three apartments in the new Moore Place that broke ground on August 13th. Slated to be finished in Spring 2011 and located off N. Graham Street, Moore Place will be an 85-unit building providing permanent housing for the chronically homeless. It is important not only as the cornerstone of Charlotte-Mecklenburg’s Ten-Year Plan to End Homelessness, but also it will be the only option available for homeless women. The remaining $5k raised went to UMC’s maintenance budget. This year, Common Grounds hopes to raise even more, and as more word gets out, I bet they will succeed!
John and Kelley Vieregg, owners of Interiors Marketplace, donated the side porch where Common Grounds is located. On the beautifully designed porch you can find the most wonderful goodies:
- Local produce and flowers
- Homemade baked goods, hummus, chocolate sauce and simple syrups
- Goat Lady Dairy spreadable cheeses
- Clemson University Blue Cheese Krumbles
- Chester Farms eggs
- Dukes Bread
- Blessed Bees Honey
- Lit’l Taste of Heaven Biscuits
- Well-Dressed salad dressings
- Yah’s Best Products salsa
- and more…!
How do they source their local produce, baked goods, dairy items and flowers? They receive items from several places, actually. Avondale Presbyterian maintains a large garden at the church and helps to support Common Grounds through donations of beautiful heirloom tomatoes, peppers, cucumbers, and gorgeous zinnias. Common Grounds picks up fresh produce and items from Springs Farms, The Goat Lady Dairy, Tega Hills, and others. Volunteers provide fresh flowers from their gardens along with baked goods and local produce. I’m told that the youth especially enjoy volunteering at Common Grounds – it provides a sense of community and a tool for teens to learn about giving back.
During my visit, I picked up some cheeses, roasted artichoke & lemon hummus and local produce – all very yummy. But you need to see it for yourself – visit Common Grounds this season, pick up some local treats to support a terrific cause, and discover how special this place really is.
Where to find it: 923 Providence Road, on the side porch of Interiors Marketplace (at the intersection of Providence & Queens)
Hours: Tuesdays & Fridays through August, 9:00am to 1:00pm; Fridays only in September.
Special Event: Cornucopia Sale on Saturday, November 20 from 9:00am to 2:00pm – huge sale event with gift items and a large collection of frozen goods for the holidays. Don’t miss it!