The City of Sherwood launched its new Market District concept Thursday evening, instituting a farmers’ market in the empty lot formerly occupied by the Sherwood Lanes bowling alley at Country Club Road and North Hills Boulevard. The event is scheduled to take place every Thursday from 5 to 8 p.m. through August 30.
The city’s volunteer Keep Sherwood Beautiful committee spearheaded the event, partnering with surrounding businesses such as BJ Plants and Produce, which recently moved from its East McCain location in North Little Rock to the vacant grocery store across Country Club from the market. The committee hopes to create a walking community event in the area surrounding the intersection.
“[The event] exceeded our expectations, especially for a first-time event,” said Don Hughes, chairman of the Keep Sherwood Beautiful committee. “We’re learning from today to hopefully make it even better each week.”
Hughes’ cautious expectations may be valid, considering the mixed success of similar farmers’ market events in central Arkansas. One farmer confided he was also pleasantly surprised at the solid turnout at the event, considering his involvement in some others that were poorly marketed or simply not well attended.
Another farmer, Bob Barnhill of Barnhill Farms in Lonoke, was encouraged by the turnout. He also sells at other community markets in Little Rock, such as Bernice Garden on Sundays and Hillcrest Farmers Market at Pulaski Heights Baptist Church on Saturdays.
“There seems to be a lot of enthusiasm for a first-time market,” Barnhill said, as the crowd looked over his table of blackberries, peaches, squash, corn and other produce.
The Keep Sherwood Beautiful committee has coordinated specials and events at surrounding businesses during market hours. For example, BJ Plants and Produce had samples of Arkansas watermelon, Kent Walker Artisan Cheese and local-made salsa, as well as purchase specials. Nearby Jo-Jo’s BBQ offered a “buy one, get one half price” meal deal for market visitors, using a coupon distributed at the event.
Geneti Nemera, who hails from Ethiopia but has lived in Sherwood since coming to work for Heifer International in 2005, was at the market selling honey. He has sold the honey to support his hobby for the past two years.
“My wife studied beekeeping in Ethiopia and always wanted to do it,” Nemera said. “When I came to Arkansas, I found out that you don’t need land; you can have two hives in your backyard.”
The Sherwood Parking Lot Irregulars, as they called themselves, was less of an organized band and more of a jam session among friends — very talented ones. A mixture of young and old played together at the Market District event, just as I remember some of these same guys doing on Saturday mornings 20+ years ago in front of the nearby building that now houses Gadwall’s Grill.