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Saxapahaw Rivermill Farmers' Market is fresh, fun and kid approved

By Heather LaGarde
Posted Monday, June 5, 2006

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Saxapahaw, NC - When Heather and Tom LaGarde created the Saxapahaw Rivermill Farmers' Market and Music Series last year their intention was to create a community phenomenon that would appeal to the whole family. With two young children of their own it was important to them that the Market have a special component created especially for kids. A Farmers' Market is a wonderful place for children to learn about farms, nature and healthy food.

The Saxapahaw Market features lots of fresh local produce, fruits, eggs cheese, baked goods, jellies chutneys, plants, flowers and wine from the local vineyard. Farmers are terrific teachers and children can sample fresh local produce and learn about how things grow, but to keep them interested and occupied the LaGardes wanted to bring in activities, games and events, many of them with an environmental science edge.

Saxapahaw is an historic mill town on the banks of the Haw river and is a great favorite for outdoor enthusiasts, environmentalists and artists. The Saxapahaw Rivermill, sponsor and host of the Market and Music series, was formerly a cotton mill and has been renovated and re-adapted as lofts, and apartments and houses a growing number of businesses and non profits.

Mac Jordan, who has overseen the transformation of the mill is a board member on the Haw River Assembly and very committed to preservation, nature and the community of Saxapahaw. There are a host of educational, art and environmental organizations based in the Rivermill including the innovative performance art group Paperhand Puppet Intervention.

New Century Charter High School is located in the mill with specialized programs in environmental science, sustainable agriculture and Kayaking as P.E. The non profit Mosaic Rural Wellness Center runs a host of outreach programs in the community and CERES, the Coalition for Environmental Responsibility and Education through Synergy, Saxapahaw's local quality-of-life, advocacy organization has their headquarters there providing incubator office space to emerging companies which benefit the community including the Haw River Canoe and Kayak Company, the NC Paddle Trail Association and the Haw River Trail. CERES was instrumental in protecting the county landfill from being sold and expanded to 24 counties in 2004 and provides active monitoring for the community.

As the Market grew last year CERES stepped in to lead and create an innovative and adventurous weekly program for young people. CERES founder Michael Holland engineered, often in partnership with the children, an escalating series of challenging games and rides including an extended homemade slip-n-slide, ziplines, rope climbing and more. As the organizers began to plan for this year's summer series they realized that to be able to continue the level of adventure and creativity they would need to get some help.

Concerns about insurance costs almost relegated the children's events to arts and crafts only but Anderson Homes, who are building a new neighborhood in Saxapahaw, stepped in to help underwrite the insurance costs for the children's events. Named the Carolina’s ENERGY STAR 2006 Partner of the Year for building energy efficient homes, Anderson Homes liked the environmental aspect of the children’s events and wanted to support the series.

Great Outdoor Provisions Company have donated a kayak and materials for the envisioned zipline kayak ride, “the ZipBoat” (only a few inches off the ground) along with other supplies for games and events. Face painting, arts and crafts, bubbles, and sprinklers are a weekly occurrence run by Susan Holland. The children's events are free though donations are gratefully accepted. All children’s activities take place in a well marked area on a gently rolling green hillside under 200 year old spreading oaks.

And then there is the music; over 20 bands will perform as part of the weekly summer series. Upcoming bands include Django Haskins, The Carolina Chocolate Drops, Jimmy Magoo, Brown Mountain Lights, Maxwell/Mosher and Big Medicine playing on a haywagon stage at the Market Meadow Amphitheater beneath christmas lights in all the trees. Performances are also free though organizers pass the peach bucket to collect donations for the bands.

The Market provides a safe place for children to learn, explore, dance, play and make new friends. "It is our hope that bringing music, art, games and fresh healthy food together in a fun way will provide children with a lasting openness to healthy eating, exercise and culture on a very simple and un-intimidating level." says Heather LaGarde. "Our Market motto is "Eat Healthy. Be Bountiful!"'

The Saturdays in Saxapahaw, Farmers' Market, Music Series and CERES Kid's Activities take place every Saturday from 5-8pm through August 26th. All events are in downtown Saxapahaw outside next to the Post Office and across from the Saxapahaw Rivermill. It's a beautiful day out and all are welcome. A complete summer schedule, lists of bands, farmers, directions, pictures, maps and events can be found at


June 10 Django Haskins

June 17 Gospel Jubilators

June 24 Carolina Chocolate Drops

July 1 Jimmy Magoo & Friends

July 8 Milagro Saints

July 15 Brown Mountain Lights

July 22 Love Handles

July 29 Tommy Edwards and Friends

August 5 The Breaks and Velvet

August 12 Maxwell/Mosier

August 19 Mad Tea Party

August 26 Big Medicine

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