Last week I attended my very first Tennessee Association of Farmers Markets meeting. I was tickled to be surrounded by so many folks supporting Tennessee growers. All parts of the state were represented from Dyersburg to Dandridge, Tri-Cities to Chattanooga and everywhere in between. The University of Tennessee Agriculture Extension Office, Farmers Market Managers, Farmers and Produce Auction representatives were all present. I learned a lot that day. It occurred to me that not everyone may understand the different farmers market models.
A Producer Only Farmers Market is one of the best ways to connect people directly to the farmers and artisans. It is a reflection of that region’s culture, economy and social structure. Not only will you see beautiful fruits, vegetables, meats and dairy products, you might see a variety of artisan products. They make it, bake it or grow it! I don’t think I have bought a mass produced bar of soap in years. Even Emma is tickled when I come home with home-made dog treats. This is all due to my local farmers markets. With an ever-growing need to secure the safety of our food; many people have a desire to know the origin of the very food that sustains them. If this is important to you, a Producer Only Market will be just what you are looking for.
Some Farmers Markets are a fusion between producers and resellers. Resellers are individuals or companies that buy produce at auctions. There is an Amish community in Etheridge, TN that holds such a produce auction. If you are looking for a fun day trip, check out the auction sometime this summer. When produce is sold at auction, it is sold in lots. Each lot may be comprised from several different sources. Whether you are buying straight from an auction or a reseller, it is important to understand that this produce cannot be sold as an organic product without proper certifications. Now, I know that organics is not a priority for everyone. Living life 100% organic can be like eating shit with a splinter. Trust me, I feel you! Just hear me out. If a reseller, CSA or producer claims that they are selling an “organically grown” product, ask to see their USDA Organic Certification. If they do not have a certification, but are representing their produce as “organic” buyer beware. Receiving a USDA organic certification is an arduous process. Ethical producers and resellers will use the term “naturally grown” if they have not received that little green and white USDA label.
If you would like to check out your closest farmers market this spring, this is the best farmers market list provided by Pick Tennessee Products. There are many reasons to support your local farmers and artisans. Sure, the carbon foot print is reduced, the local economy is supported, your diet is full of nutritious ingredients and you even have a fun story to tell about your dish at the next potluck. I think the most important reason to support local farmers and artisans is that it just plain tastes better!