Pulaski Heights Baptist in Little Rock, Arkansas is located in a great, historic neighborhood.  The community is now comprised largely of young, hip, educated folks, all interested in healthy lifestyles. Young families, singles, as well as some seniors, live in homes in the neighborhood that date from the 1930s-50s.

A year ago we at Pulaski Heights did not know many of our neighbors.  Each Wednesday evening at supper we saw dozens of walkers and joggers. We saw parents pushing baby strollers. And we wondered, “How can we meet these folks? Do they even know who we are and what goes on here?”

What was born of the prayers and discussions that followed those questions is the Hillcrest Farmers Market, which operates May through September on Saturdays from 7 a.m. to noon. The organizing of the market followed a church-wide study about how to be “missional” by serving the community. The market is supported through a grant from the Cooperative Baptist Fellowship’s  It’s Time program.  

We saw that neighbors were interested in community service, and we hoped the market would lend a relevance to our church’s ministries.  We hoped by seeing what we do they might also learn about us and our church and be open to learning more about Christ who motivates our living.

On Saturday, May 5, 2012, we will celebrate the grand opening of our second season. In the last year, hundreds of shoppers have come by. They visit with each other and church folks, sip coffee, buy a gourmet sandwich from the Food Truck, sit on the church steps, and enjoy a leisurely morning.

The market currently has fifteen vendors, all whom bring locally grown products.  Farmers agree they will sell only what they grow or produce.  The market offers seasonal produce as well as cheese, eggs, pasture-raised meats, jams, jellies, and baked goods.

Each Saturday the church puts up a hospitality tent and hands out information about Pulaski Heights. Shoppers may preregister for Vacation Bible School or other church activities. We also invite folks to sign up for emails about other special events they might enjoy. The church sponsors a children’s tent each week, offering craft fun for children as their parents shop. There is also a children’s gardening project, “The Mustard Seed Ministry,” which gives kids a chance to plant seeds in the flower gardens at the market and learn basic gardening skills to carry through life. The youth serve coffee and water and accept donations to their summer mission travel.  The coffee is donated by a local coffee shop.

The market has a food donation program too. Produce donated at the end of the market by vendors is picked up by Dorcas House—a shelter for women and children who are homeless or are victims of domestic abuse.  The vendors receive a contribution receipt for their tax records.

“This ministry may be the most significant thing we have done in a number of years,” said Randy Hyde,  Pulaski Height’s senior pastor.   The church has had enthusiastic response from the residents and merchants. We have experienced positive support from the congregation.  We believe we have found an ideal new program to engage us with our community for healthy living, to serve our neighbors, and for faith growth as well.”

Carolyn Staley is associate pastor of discipleship and missions at Pulaski Height Baptist Church, Little Rock, Arkansas. Carolyn serves on the Baptist Women in Ministry Leadership Team.