The first point made is don't ask the farmer, "Was this picked fresh this morning?" Think about it: How early would a farmer have to get up pick all their crops, box them up, load them on a truck and drive the X number of miles to the market to be open and ready at 8 or 9 a.m.? Midnight-thirty? Harvesting in the dark?
Anyway, accommodating farmers' busy schedules is part of the reason that the Nashville Farmers’ Market is testing out having their popular Night Market event on Saturday this month.
Farmers spend a quite a bit of time preparing their wares in the days leading up to the weekend markets, with a heavy emphasis on the night before. So having Night Market on Saturday instead of Friday should give the farmers more time Friday night to prepare for Saturday morning markets (and maybe even a little more time to sleep). It also gives shoppers the opportunity for a leisurely evening of shopping, eating and entertainment, rather than rushing to an after-work event.
Just like at the Friday Night Market events, this Saturday, there will be a kids’ area, food trucks, and live entertainment along with market vendors in the farm shed and food court. Additionally, chef Matt Bolus and Bells Bend Farm will be set up in the Grow Local Kitchen.
Check it out and see what you think. The NFM organization is eager to hear your feedback, particularly through their Facebook page.
Saturday, Aug. 17
5 to 8 p.m.
Nashville Farmers’ Market
900 Rosa Parks Blvd.
A city-owned facility, the market issued an official Metro government help-wanted release last week.
The salary is listed at $68,000 to $78,000 per year, with this job description: "This position directs and performs administrative and supervisory duties involved in overseeing all administrative activities of the Farmers’ Market. Works under the direction of the Farmers’ Market Board. Performs related duties as required. Requires some work on nights and weekends. This is a Metro Non Civil Service position."
The Nashville Farmers' Market has lacked a manager in the top spot for more than a year. The last director, Jeff Themm, announced his retirement from the job in April 2012, shortly after a Metro review found “management and financial deficiencies” at the market.
The facility is a diverse operation, with both indoor and outdoor spaces that are rented out to farmers, produce resellers, artisan food purveyors, craftspeople, flea market vendors, restaurants and small shops.
The critical financial report cited as a key concern the rental rates the market charged to vendors, including a lack of consistency in rents. "Management did not monitor its costs of operations and thereby failed to adjust and distribute shared costs to vendors equitably,” the review found.
Since Themm's departure, there has been much operational soul-searching at the deficit-plagued market. Nancy Whittemore, director of Metro General Services, has served as interim director for more than a year.
And now there’s good news for the people of Bellevue. Though those in the westernmost parts of Bellevue have access to McNeil’s Produce Stand out on Highway 100 (just past the Loveless Cafe/Natchez Trace Parkway), those in the eastern portion will be happy to hear there’s a farmers market starting this Friday, July 19, at Bellevue United Methodist Church on Old Harding Pike.
The market is being organized by Elizabeth and Robert Spinelli of Perl and will be held on Friday evenings from 5:30 to 8:00 p.m., a time determined to be the most convenient for the area, the farmers/vendors and to avoid conflicts with popular Saturday morning markets.
Among the vendors who will set up at the Bellevue Farmers Market are Walnut Hills Farm, Circle T Farm, Clover Cove Farm, Mary Alice's Organic Lemonade, Basil and Bergamot Flower Farm, Naturally Yummy, G&G Family Dairy/Tennessee Real Milk, Ann Marie's Artisan Bakery, Kenny's Farmhouse Cheese, Kerfluffles Marshmallows, The Peach Truck, Sylvan Meadows Farm and Perl.
Vendors are still being added to the roster, and organizers are seeking additional vendors as well. If you or someone you know is interested in selling at the market, please email bellevuefarmmarket [at] gmail.com. Booth fees are “low” and a portion will go to the Bellevue Food Bank.
For the latest information, follow the Bellevue Farmers Market on Facebook.
Bellevue Farmer's Market
Bellevue United Methodist Church
7501 Old Harding Pike
Fridays, 5:30 to 8:00 p.m. now through October
If that's not enough market for you, there's a new website set up by the USDA to help you research farmers markets across the country. Although the site is by no means sexy or exhaustively researched, it's not bad for gub'mint work. If you want a tool to help plan your travel outside of the area or maybe to discover a new small market that you haven't visited yet, then the USDA Market Search tool might do the trick. If you know of a market that isn't listed, you might encourage them to register themselves on the site to help flesh it out a little bit too.
The split is the stuff of huge gossip and speculation in town, and in addition to talking to both sides — Siple and Delvin Farms' owner Hank Delvin Jr. — Littman consulted other voices in the local sustainable food movement, including Megan Morton, executive director of Community Food Advocates, an organization working toward a sustainable food system; and Andrea Cloninger Wilson, a professor of sustainable food systems at Lipscomb University. Littman writes:
Morton and others see this high-profile falling-out as a chance for Nashville to take a step back and define what it wants, or doesn't want, its farmers markets to be, and decide whether or not there should be certain ground rules at markets.
For example, should markets held in public spaces be managed by private entities? Should markets have boards of directors rather than one manager who can make unilateral decisions about who can and cannot be a vendor?
Should there be limits on the number of farmers who can cooperatively share one booth? Some markets ask farmers to pay a flat booth fee; others take a percentage of sales. Should these details be uniform from market to market? These are questions that other communities have been forced to ask, Morton says.
Wow, that's a bushel load of good questions. Bites Nation, I'm asking you all of those and more:
Anybody planning to shop for produce tomorrow? Headed to West Nashville or West End? Which one and why?
Among those of us who live in West Nashville, there was some concern about having two markets, possibly having to go to two separate markets each weekend, and the viability of each. However, I visited both markets this past Saturday morning and came away feeling that this will actually be a good thing for customers, particularly for those folks who live in Green Hills, Belle Meade and Whitland since the West End Farmers Market is a much more convenient location for them.
If you can't stand the heat, steer clear of Richland Park tomorrow, as the West Nashville Farmers Market accommodates its seasonal Pepper Village, where hotheads of all stripe gather to sell their wares. We're especially excited to see Ben Smythe back with his Banjamin's Ghost Pepper Elixer, and he promises upgrades in his products as well as a bumper locally grown crop of beautiful but deadly bhut jolokias, a rival for the world's hottest pepper.
Also on hand will be Ric Ousley with his popular Ousley Ouch salsas. Smythe says the event is going to start out small, so don't expect but a few vendors this time. But there are plans to grow the village if response is strong. Besides, the West Nashville market on Charlotte is one of the city's best — as much an outdoor food court as a place to buy produce (love those fresh mushrooms!). Any excuse to go is welcome.
Last month I told you about Nashville Grown, a local group working to create a food hub to help farmers sell produce to restaurants and other institutions, with a website and refrigerated storage for distributing produce.
Not long after that I heard from Lisa Shively, publisher of The Local Table magazine, a seasonal guide to local food and farms. She’s working on a different food hub project, Farm to Plate, which aims to “connect the grower and wholesale buyer to create a healthier and more sustainable local food system.” She set up a GoFundMe campaign to raise startup funds and has collected about $1,800, with a goal of $8,500.
Now we get word about the Birmingham company, Freshfully, a startup that’s been so successful that it’s expanding to Tennessee and other states. In each city it recruits a blogger, called a "locavore," to reach out to farmers and compile stories, recipes and profiles of local folks.
In Nashville they’ve recruited Susannah Felts, a writer for Tennessee literary site Chapter 16 (and a City Paper and Nashville Scene contributor). She’s already posted content on Freshfully’s Nashville page.
Freshfully is filling a different niche from the other would-be food hubs I mentioned, in that it is exclusively targeting individual consumers, not restaurants or schools.
It has also already completed some of the heavy lifting on the tech side — creating a user interface for online ordering.
That’s the work of Sam Brasseale, a Freshfully co-founder and, according to his business partner Jen Barnett, “a complete nerd.” (She says that affectionately.)
Barnett is an experienced marketer with an MBA from Emory and a specialty in interactive strategy. She met Brasseale through a mutual friend (his wife), and they started working together on tech projects in Birmingham.
Food hubs, which already exist in dozens of cities, assist small local farms by providing them with services to help them market their products. In this case, that means launching an online store to connect Nashville-area farms with restaurants and renting refrigerated space at the Nashville Farmers’ Market where produce can be stored for pickup or delivery to restaurant customers.
The project is called Nashville Grown, and organizers hope the system will go live near the beginning of September. I first heard about it from Laura Wilson of the Grow Local Kitchen at the Nashville Farmers’ Market. As a chef, she knows firsthand how eager restaurants are to secure fresh produce but how difficult the logistics are when it comes to connecting chefs and farmers. “They both work 60-hour weeks already, and they’re on opposite schedules,” Wilson says.
Wilson is serving as a volunteer consultant for Nashville Grown. Another key person is Sarah Johnson, a 2009 Stanford University grad who studied international food policy in Washington, D.C., before moving to Nashville to work on urban food initiatives here.
Located in the grassy area on the side of Fifty Forward (near where Donelson Pike meets Lebanon Road), the farmers market features locally grown fruits and veggies, as well as cheese, jam, bread, honey, salsa, hummus, food trucks, etc. (There wasn't any meat sold at the first soft opening, but I'm hoping that will change as the market grows.) Confirmed food trucks are Smoke et Al, Wrapper's Delight , Mean Green Ice Cream Machine, and in addition, there will be Donelson-based artisans sharing their arts and crafts. And of course, there will be some sweet tunes to help you get in the shopping/eating spirit.
It's run by Good Food for Good People — the same people who bring you the West Nashville, Franklin and Richland farmers markets. But this market is really a testament to the power of Facebook. The very active Facebook group Hip Donelson, helped bring the market to fruition, raising awareness of the need and gathering interest.
The market is every Friday from 4-7 p.m. Judging from the two "soft openings," it will be crowded, so come early.
Haven't been yet. Any first impressions?
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