A Hidden Gem In South Iredell - Josh's Farmer's MarketMay 18, 2022 09:48AM ● By Kristie Darling
1. A market where local farmers sell agricultural products, like fruits and vegetables, often meat, cheese, bakery products, plants, and other home-produced products directly to consumers.
“We’re a family-owned farm market, and we specialize in regionally sourced, homegrown seasonal fruits and vegetables, with a special niche in fresh-from-the-coast seafood, key-lime pies, and hanging flower baskets” Josh Graham shared. “We plant lettuces and okra, and we raise grass-fed black Angus cattle and about 600, 100% free-range laying chickens on our family farm in Mt. Ulla. My grandparents bought the farm in 1980.”
In addition to Josh’s own farm-raised agricultural products, he and his partner/brother-in-law, Garrett, work closely with about 35 local and regional cattle, chicken, dairy, and vegetable farmers, orchards, greenhouses, honey bottlers, jelly and jam canners, bakers, cheesemakers, and specialty food preppers. Add to that an assortment of handcrafted, quality items from a collection of diverse producers, and you’ve got a nearby farmer’s market that’s abundantly charming.
Josh’s Farmers Market is unique in several interesting ways…It has been in operation since 1990—31 years ago. “We started out, just me and my brother, Seth. I was ten, he was seven…just kids, along Williamson Road—which wasn’t anything like the bustle it is today—we were out in the country—pushing our homegrown cantaloupes down the road, looking for folks to buy, “Josh remembers. “Now, we manage an under-the-tent, outdoor venue for folks to shop for groceries, plants, furniture, gifts…every day…right in Mooresville. Our new location at the YMCA off Williamson Road has been a blessing for us and our customers. The Y took us in when we had no place to go, and it’s been the best location so far.”
Josh now has plenty of room for customers to park, easy access for farmers and suppliers to pull right up and off load, and a lovely lawn to display the Amish and Mennonite handcrafted furniture and sheds he sells. It’s a win-win all around.
Josh’s seven-day-a-week market is a fulltime-plus operation. It’s like an open-air grocery store where everything is fresh and there’s no piped-in elevator music. There are knowledgeable people readily on hand to answer your questions, like, “Where do these tomatoes come from?” Or, “Are these eggs really free-range? Do they taste better than the ones at such-and-such store?”
The business plan for Josh’s Farmer’s Market has grown, especially in the last 10 years. Josh and Garret have discovered the treasures that our local and regional farms can provide, and they’ve pulled together a delicious assortment of exceptional quality goods. “We’ve expanded in ways the traditional farmer’s markets haven’t,” Josh said. “Most of our produce we haul in daily, and a lot we pick up a couple times a week. I think the farthest we drive for a load is to the coast for seafood every Thursday, starting out early morning. We travel south for produce before the Fourth of July to Columbia, SC, and after, we drive out to Ashe County, to the higher, cooler elevations. For instance, we get asparagus from Turkey, NC, tomatoes from Mocksville, berries from Woodleaf, various fruits and veggies from Mt. Ulla, where our farm is. All from local and regional farmers who grow delicious food.”
Josh carries seasonal fruits and vegetables; some varieties you might not even know about—golden nugget mandarins, jumbo grapefruit, yellow heart watermelons, purple asparagus, creamer potatoes, as well as purple and white sweet potatoes. Cling peaches From Gaffney and McBee, South Carolina are coming in now.
Not all farmer’s markets have coolers for perishable food, but this is one that does. The refrigerated section is smaller than you’ll find at Food Lion, but it is filled with real food produced by real people—the hallmark of a fully stocked farm market. When did you last taste glass-bottled milk or freshly made cheese? Blue eggs mixed in with tans and whites? “We try to keep our selections healthy, hormone and chemical free. We search out items that chain stores don’t carry…that folks might only buy when they’re on vacation visiting a local country store,” Josh continued, “but we bring it all together for people to enjoy anytime.”
Again, very unique at a farmer’s market, Josh imports homemade, Official Florida Key Lime Pies. “When we decided to try offering these pies, we started with 40. I posted a photo on Instagram, and they were gone in 15 minutes. The trucks now deliver about 400 a load each Wednesday morning for sale that afternoon.” Pre-orders you can make online are recommended…they go fast.
Seafood For Dinner
Totally unique is JFM Seafood, a delivered-fresh daily department at the Market. “Again, we try to source items that are hard to find, that the grocery stores don’t’ carry,” Josh said. “This adds quite a lot to our pick-up and delivery travel, but it’s well worth the drive to the coast to get the real deal, the freshest quality. Anyone who sells seafood relies on trucks to deliver to them, but we source from two or three stops along the coast and pick up fish and shellfish from several crabbers and fish houses. I believe we get the freshest that way.” The diverse East Coast selection includes greentail shrimp from Pamlico Sound, and stone crab claws and live jumbo soft-shelled blue crabs from North Carolina. From around the country and beyond, Josh gets cooked crawfish from Louisiana, littleneck clams from Georgia, steelhead trout from Norway, golden tile from the Gulf, walleye from the Great Lakes, and sushi-grade salmon from the North Atlantic…the list goes on. “We see offering a variety of fresh and frozen seafood as a special service to our customers,” Josh said, “and we know everyone appreciates adding these options to their grocery list.”
The hanging baskets of summer annuals burst all about the market. The fruits and vegetables are beautiful, and the blooming-their-hearts-out flowers make the market spectacular. In our area, Josh’s has a reputation for lots of baskets, abundantly in bloom. “So far this year, we’ve sold over 1,000 flower baskets. Our bedding plants, flowers, and shrubbery are kept under shade so they stay healthy and ready for transplanting. We sell palm trees, tropicals, and ferns and we have one vendor, who has been with us for 13 years, who brings fresh-cut flower bouquets…they sell out quick.”
Not Everything Grows in the Ground
An impressive market for hand-made, Amish lawn chairs and Mennonite sheds sits beside the food market. “We’ve worked with three Amish families who make furniture for four years and one Mennonite shed builder for the last two years. They market their hand-crafted chairs, rockers, and planters here, as well as 8-seater picnic tables that we can paint or stain in-house,” said Josh. “The workmanship is exceptional.” When Josh needed a shed for this new YMCA location, he told Mr. Helmutt he could hang out his shed-building business sign if he finished Josh’s order in two weeks…it arrived in 10 days, and a partnership was struck.
In The Community
“We like to give back to churches and schools when we can—that’s where our customers come from,” Josh says. “I’m a big baseball fan, I have two players among my five children, so we support local teams. I like to reward kids for getting themselves where they are today. Sometimes, Josh is able to donate food to the Mooresville Soup Kitchen when an item is running long, and he has more than he can sell. Farmers sometimes take leftover food for their livestock. Who knew cows love cantaloupes, peaches, tomatoes?
Farm-to-market dining has become a big thing. Restaurants that source ingredients from local vendors promote this feature and it attracts diners with a taste for fresh, quality food. When you’re wishing you could serve healthy meals like this at home, think Josh’s Farmer’s Market. A stroll through Josh’s Farmer’s Market will make serving homegrown foods at your table easy, healthy, and delicious.