When I spoke with James Coles last year, before the opening of the East End Community Farmers Market, he said the market was a response to residents who requested access to fresh produce.
Coles, executive vice president of Community Ventures in Lexington and co-founder of the market, said studies found that the Third Street corridor was a "health food desert" and that getting fresh fruits and vegetables on dinner tables in the community was limited by lack of transportation.
But that wasn't the end of the story.
Not only did residents need access, they also wanted to be able to pay for their goods with EBT debit cards and Women, Infants and Children debit cards as they do in grocery stores. This year that was made possible too.
Also added this year was an idea that has reverberated at the Charles Young Community Center task force meetings throughout the summer and after recent hostilities involving young people in that neighborhood. Community Ventures and several partners added a component that included young people in the mix.
The Youth Entrepreneurial Development Program started out with eight youths ages 12 to 17 who ran the market until farmers could harvest their crops.
"This year was about bringing healthy local food into the area and about the youth initiative," Cole said.
The young people sold items, interacted with customers and even dabbled in marketing, Coles said.
"They contributed to making the location attractive," he said. "We wanted to make them aware of the opportunities in the agri-economy.
"Many of the customers complimented us for having the youth here. And some of them were tipping the youth for carrying their purchases to their cars," he said.
The youth component went over so well that Fayette County Public Schools has been brought onboard as a partner. Coles said the youths helping at the market next year also will participate in the sowing and harvesting of crops at Locust Trace AgriScience Farm, a public high school off Leestown Road.
"The partnership will also incorporate more of the curriculum of what we are doing from a business model," he said.
Saturday will mark the close of the market for the season. There will be music, free food and a drawing for a flat-screen TV. Throughout the season, customers who spent $5 received raffle tickets. One winner will be chosen at noon. The winner must be present to claim the prize.
"We want you there and we want to attract people there," Coles said. "Someone has to eat all these hot dogs and hamburgers."
But customers and residents aren't the only winners. Three of the eight young people who worked with the market throughout the season will receive refurbished desktop computer donated by Community Ventures. Next year, Coles hopes to offer the young people a stipend and laptop computers.
The farmers still have fresh turnips, mustard, kale, collard greens, okra, green and red tomatoes, green beans, cabbage, cauliflower, squash, peppers and fruit to sell, Coles said
So, come for the free food and entertainment and pick up some fresh produce that will be delicious in a homemade weekend meal.