Locally Grown Makes Tennessee’s Farmers Markets Attractive
NASHVILLE, Tenn. – Have you ever made a salad with locally grown vegetables from your community’s farmers market? If you haven’t, you should. “As Americans become more health conscientious, farmers markets are helping to fill the demand for healthier, fresher products,” says Laura Fortune, market specialist with the Tennessee Department of Agriculture. “There is also a growing national trend to support locally grown foods, and farmers markets are a perfect fit.”
With increasing consumer demand for local products, Tennessee’s farmers markets are seeing a resurgence that is reflected in more locations says Fortune. “With nearly 60 farmers markets in Tennessee now, the number is steadily growing, and even grower cooperatives are becoming popular, where local growers in a community join together to have a greater customer selection. The consumer foot traffic over the last few years has definitely increased, making it an economic asset for a community to have a farmers market.”
Local food is not the only happening trend at farmers markets. Specialty plants and flowers can also be found at many farmers markets in Tennessee. “It’s best to see what offerings are available and consult with the farmers market vendors on what will be available in the coming days from their stall,” says the marketing specialist. “Many growers produce unique fruits or vegetables and look for feedback from consumers as to what to load on their truck for the following week.”
Several markets in Tennessee adhere to the locally grown concept such as the farmers market in Clarksville, which is in the historic part of town at the old L & N Train Station. “We all grow what we sell ourselves or will buy from Montgomery County producers. Having locally grown farm products seems to work for our market, and our customers really like it, too. Most days our vendors tend to sell out of these local fruits and vegetables,” says Paulette Patterson, who manages Montgomery County’s farmers market and also serves as a vendor.
Other parts of Tennessee have also seen rapid popularity of home grown farm products. “I sell every week at The Market Square Farmers Market, there in downtown Knoxville and move every bit of my produce out of my truck,” says Jerry Baird, a Grainger County farmer. Baird, who drives into Knoxville to sell at the farmers market, is astonished about the popularity of his fruits and vegetables, which he has been growing for years and years. “If I can keep the crows from getting them and enough rain to make my crops grow, I have customers who come every week to get my farm fresh produce. Sometimes, my farm truck will be sold out before noon. Folks in Knoxville really appreciate the stuff fresh from the farm. I have repeat customers who are interested and ask questions about how it is grown.” says Baird.
Linnie Todd, manager for West Tennessee Farmers Market in Jackson experiences a similar response from her customers. “Our Tennessee grown shed is definitely part of the main attraction of the farmers market. People in Jackson make the most of the availability season and know what they want and are looking for every time they come. One of our growers brought an entire truckload of ears of corn and sold every bit of it. We have regulars who shop during the week, but Saturdays get really crowded with farmers and customers. We have been steadily growing and support from our community has been the key to our success,” says Todd.
For a list of Tennessee farmers markets by region, or for more information about the availability of locally grown produce and other products, visit the Tennessee Department of Agriculture’s Web site at www.picktnproducts.org or call the Market Development Division at (615) 837-5160.