Outdoors Latest

Mill Town Market back for second year at Sorrells Street Park

Mill Town Market back for second year at Sorrells Street Park File photo

The season for farmers markets, with all their fresh produce, local vendors and community engagement, is right around the corner, and in Canton, the Mill Town Market is embarking on its second year at Sorrells Street Park. 

“Sustainability of the project is the thing we care about the most,” said Vice President of the Mill Town Market Board of Trustees and founding Market Manager Aimee Sylvester.

With so many local producers of agriculture and crafts, Canton has long had farmers markets in the area. In its current form, the Mill Town Market was started in 2021 on a historically significant site.

“It was started by Pat Smathers and his family to continue the tradition of three generations of supermarkets run by their family in Canton at its former site, which is right across from The Southern Porch,” said Sylvester. “The town square where the law offices are dates back to the 1960s. That was the original grocery store in Canton. It was the town’s civic and social center.” 

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A historic photo of the original Smathers Supermarket in downtown Canton. Donated photo

But in an effort toward sustainability, the market made some changes last year, incorporating as a nonprofit and starting its 2023 season down at Sorrells Street Park. Locating the market in the park has allowed more space for additional vendors and other activities to accompany the market like live music, demonstrations and yoga classes.

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“We moved, with the support of the Town of Canton, down to Sorrells Street Park last summer, so that was our first summer in the park and it’s been great,” said Sylvester. “Our cross traffic is so much better down there. Everyone has doubled their income as far as vendors, doubled and tripled, some of them. It’s more visible where it’s at now because we have Main and Park streets that run through there.” 

With nonprofit status, the Mill Town Market is largely supported by sponsors in the community itself. Alongside the Town of Canton which provides park space for the weekly market, the Cruso Endowment is a major funder of the market.

Another push for sustainability comes in the makeup of the board, which not only includes community members with grant writing and nonprofit experience like Sylvester, but is also made up of small business owners, farmers and other vendors, musicians, teachers and patrons of the market.

“The small business platform that we provide is at the heart of it for the growers and producers,” said Sylvester.

But ultimately, community connection is at the center of the push to maintain a farmers market for the Town of Canton.

“My heart is with the community aspect of it and protecting community spaces,” said Sylvester. “Especially after three years of isolation and going into a political year, wanting to protect non-partisan spaces. Everybody needs produce and community and fellowship, and this is something that I hope can continue for years and years and years, so we have that.” 

Mill Town Market currently has 31 vendors signed up to participate for the 2024 season, and with some of those joining on a rotating basis, patrons can expect an average of 20 per week.

“The vast majority have been there before, but we do have a couple of new faces,” Sylvester said.

There are 20 craft vendors, 10 produce vendors and one baker.

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“We’re very mindful about how we cultivate those vendors so they’re not in competition with each other,” Sylvester said. “We have a pork vendor, a beef vendor, an egg producer, and my favorite vendor of all, our cheese vendor who does goat cheese and goat soaps.” 

There are several fresh-cut flower vendors signed up for the season, and patrons can expect to see one of 10 different food trucks that are on board to participate throughout the season.

The market is always accepting applications for vendors who want to participate and the board is always ready to hear from anyone who wants to be involved or assist the market via donation or volunteer support. Organizers have also lined up a full music schedule with live performances planned each week through the entire market season.

“We have a fully booked live music schedule in place with local live musicians and we encourage shoppers to bring chairs for that,” said Sylvester.

Each month the Mill Town Market will have a different theme, the first of which is veterans appreciation month.


“We have several veteran-owned businesses that participate in the market already, one of which is Ruthie’s Popcorn,” said Sylvester. “We have several veteran-led nonprofits that will be attending that first month… we’ll be providing veteran and active-duty resources, as well as honoring hometown heroes.” 

June is wellness month, and the market will host donation-based yoga with Evanstar Yoga, massage, mental health resources and demonstrations by Heavily Meditated Wellness, another Canton business.

July will be heritage month, August is creativity and care month, which will include a plant exchange, and one of the highlights of the season will be the tomato fest, complete with a tomato pie competition and road race.

“We want to celebrate the tomato, the hero of the summer,” Sylvester said.

September is bookworm month for the start of the school year and October will close out the season with “all things outdoors.”

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Local Farmers Markets 

• The Mill Town Market takes place 4-7 p.m. Thursdays, May 16 through Oct. 31, at Sorrells Street Park in Canton.

• Haywood’s Historic Farmers Market takes place 9 a.m. to noon, Saturdays, April 6 through Dec. 21, in the HART Theater parking lot, 250 Pigeon Road, in Waynesville.

• Macon County Farmers Market takes place 9 a.m. to 2 p.m. Saturdays, May through November, at the Iotla Street Gazebo on the square in downtown Franklin.

• The Cowee School Farmers Market takes place 3:30-5:30 p.m. Wednesdays, May 15 through October, at the Cowee School Arts and Heritage Center, located at 51 Cowee School Drive in Franklin.

• The Jackson County Farmers Market is held 9 a.m. to noon Saturdays, April through October, at 110 Railroad Ave. in downtown Sylva.

• The Smoky Mountain Farmers and Artisans Market takes place 9 a.m. to 2 p.m. every Friday and Saturday, May 1 through Oct. 31, at 117 Island St. in Bryson City.

• The Highlands Farmers Market is held 8 a.m. to 12:30 p.m. most Saturdays April through October in Kelsey-Hutchinson Park on Pine Street in Highlands.

• The Green Market takes place 11 a.m. to 3 p.m. on Wednesdays, May 1 through Oct. 31, at the Village Green in Cashiers.

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