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Main Street Marketplace combines local ingredients, community with farm-to-table dinner

CHINA GROVE — To promote and bring awareness to its community market, Main Street Marketplace and Meeting Place hosted a farm-to-table dinner in downtown China Grove on Saturday night.

More than 100 guests gathered under a large white tent outside of the market and enjoyed a meal crafted with locally sourced ingredients. The meat and vegetables used in each dish were representative of the types of products available in the marketplace, which is designed to give everyone access to fresh, local and healthy food. 

“In the market, we partner with a lot of local farmers and makers in our community,” Market Manager Brianna Caraccio said. “A farm-to-table dinner is a way to highlight what they bring to our community and what people can purchase in our market.”

The marketplace, which opened in March, features a tier-based price system where shoppers pay based on their household income. Guests were encouraged to walk through the marketplace before dinner to learn how it works.

“We want people to see how much of the community has come together in one space and how they are also a part of that,” Caraccio said. “The individuals here tonight, the farms that come together, everything we do here at Main Street Marketplace is to continue to build relationships and community and I would like people to go away with continuous thoughts of how to do that best.”

Featured on the four-course menu for the farm-to-table dinner was a vegetable bruschetta appetizer, a fall salad, an apple honey glazed chicken entree and an apple galette served with fresh cream for dessert. Most of the cooking was done at Catawba College’s campus kitchen, but the final assembly and plating was done in the marketplace.

Fruits, vegetables and meat on the menu were sourced from Barbee Farms, Correll Farms, Patterson Farm, Coddle Creek Farms and Hutchens Homestead, among others. The lettuce and micro-greens grown in the marketplace’s hydroponic garden were also utilized in various dishes.

“There’s a lot of variety and there was a lot of thought and preparation put into it,” Caraccio said. “It was a lot of work, but I think the relationships were already built so it made it easy to create a menu.”

The man tasked with combining all the ingredients into a cohesive meal was Mike Turner, executive chef at Catawba College. Turner was the natural choice to orchestrate the dinner because of the close relationship shared by Catawba and Main Street, which supplies the college with lettuce and micro-greens that Catawba students eat on burgers and salads served in dining halls.

Bringing the meal to fruition, Turner said, was easy due to the quality of the ingredients he was using. 

“You can tell that it’s not rushed, it’s not mass produced,” Turner said. “It has the room to do what it needs to do. It flourishes the way that it needs to.”

Turner said he is proud of the work Catawba and Main Street are doing to embed themselves in the community through food.

In addition to a brief speech from Main Street Executive Director Hope Oliphant, several members of the organization’s board spoke during the dinner. The main speech of the night was delivered by Shawn Duncan. Duncan, the director of training and education at Focused Community Strategies in Atlanta, has guided Main Street through the three-year process of establishing the equitable marketplace.

Duncan has primarily provided wisdom and encouragement from behind the screen of a computer, so Saturday night was his first time visiting the marketplace in person.

“It’s super rewarding,” Duncan said. “Especially in the last year and a half all of the support and consulting we’ve been doing has been via Zoom. They told us stories of what’s happening behind it, but we hadn’t been able to be on the ground here to see it. To be able to walk inside, you see that progress is happening and change is happening and to tangibly see it makes it all worth it.”

During his speech, Duncan spoke about the importance of people donating to nonprofit organizations such as Main Street Marketplace and becoming familiar with people they are helping through giving. Before he left the stage, Duncan encouraged those in attendance to join Main Street Marketplace in its efforts.

“If you remember nothing I say, just remember this: be a part of this,” Duncan said. “It’s happening here and it’s not happening in enough places. This is special. This is unique.”

Main Street Marketplace is located at 308 S. Main St. in China Grove and is open from 10 a.m.-4 p.m. Tuesday through Friday and 10 a.m.-1 p.m. Saturday. More information is available online at www.marketandmeeting.org.

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