Tupelo, MS’s Farm-to-Fork Innovation
Rebranded Farmers’ Depot provides base for fresh, local food
Tupelo’s farmers market has undergone a renaissance in the past year, under the guiding hand of the Downtown Tupelo Main Street Association (DTMSA). Moving beyond its traditional three-days-a-week, 6 a.m.-to-noon schedule, the market is now rebranded as the Farmers’ Depot, has added evening hours and just keeps growing as an important fresh foods resource for local chefs, restaurateurs and residents.
Adding Evening Hours
“The rebranding really came out of a need to change to meet the changing local demographic,” says Main Street executivedDirector Debbie Brangenburg, explaning that younger families asked for an afternoon or evening market so they had a chance to shop after work. The market complied by creating 4-to-7 p.m. market hours on Tuesdays, while keeping the hours from 6 a.m. to noon on Thursdays and Saturdays.
“The new hours really appeal to everyone, though,” Brangenburg says.
Beyond time and location, the market's certified vendors have begun responding to other new requests, such as providing more diverse types of produce.
“We’re seeing more diverse products than we were used to – more varieties of lettuce, broccoli, cauliflower, asparagus, bok choi (Tupelo has a Japanese population as well) – foods that previously you saw mostly in grocery stores, but are now in demand from local producers,” Brangenburg says.
Farmers, Chefs & CSAs
Beyond changing demographics, Lee County also has innovative chefs and farmers helping drive the farm -to-fork movement. Will and Amanda Reed’s Native Son organic farm, which started as a three-quarter-acre garden, has grown to a vibrant CSA and farmers market producer, also supplying the likes of Mitch McCamey and Seth Copeland’s Neon Pig Café and Kermit’s Outlaw Kitchen, both wholly committed to local, seasonal foods.
“Tupelo is very fortunate to have Native Son,” says marketer and foodie Sam Waters. “The Reeds are growing year round, and they’ve created a real public appreciation for what they do. Hopefully that support will continue to grow, and they’ll support the local-sourcing restaurants like KOK that are part of what makes farms like this financially possible.”
Waters has toured local providers like Native Son and Chip Water Cattle Farms with McCamey.
“Everything on the plate at Kermit’s Outlaw Kitchen is local,” he says. “Local food is fresher – the more local you are, means it might have been harvested yesterday or this morning – so it tastes better, has more nutrients.”
Produce and More
Besides farmers, the Farmers’ Depot’s 26 vendors include an Oxford dairy, a pastry vendor, flower and plant seller, and several offer other local products like pickles, jellies, chow chow and tomato sauce. On Tuesday nights, Popsy, a favorite all-natural artisan ice pop vendor, sets up at the depot.
“We’re at full capacity, though we can set up spots down the center in peak growing seasons,” Brangenburg says.
The depot uses social media and email marketing to get information to its 2,800 followers each week. Special events include kids’ activities and live music, as well as chef demonstrations from Tupelo restaurants and gardening demonstrations.
Main Street holds an annual market fundraiser in late spring, Feast for the Farmers, which is now in its fourth year. For the event, guests enjoy dinner and drinks provided by local restaurants served under the market shed.
Local food is fresher – the more local you are, means it might have been harvested yesterday or this morning – so it tastes better, has more nutrients