Cultivating Farm Fresh Goodness: Exploring Farmers Markets in the Tennessee River Valley

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The Tennessee River Valley is known for a variety of fresh produce and farmers markets provide an excellent opportunity to get a taste of the region.

Children take part in helping plant the community garden at New Harvest Park Farmers Market.

Today’s farmers markets offer a gathering place for residents to not only connect with farmers but to socialize among friends and get to know their neighbors.

According to the U. S. Department of Agriculture, farmers markets date back to the mid 1700s and as cities popped up across the United States, many were designed with a designated area for a public market place in the center of town. The designated areas for the buying and selling of fresh, local product became essential to life until the rise of groceries stores. In recent years, farmers markets have increased in popularity due to a growing interest in locally sourced food, fresh products and knowing where products are grown. Today, there are over 8,000 farmers markets operating throughout the United States with consumers spending an estimated $1 billion.

“Farmers markets provide consumers with an opportunity to learn tips and chat directly with farmers and to learn how food is grown,” Julie Graham, spokesperson for the Tennessee River Valley Stewardship Council. “Today’s farmers markets offer a gathering place for residents to not only connect with farmers but to socialize among friends and get to know their neighbors. In addition to fresh food, many markets have live music, chefs demonstrating recipes, activities especially for children, themed special events, food trucks and more.”

The Tennessee River Valley has rounded up some of the top farmers markets in the region worth checking out this summer. All of the markets are producer-only markets, which means all vendors grow it from a farm nearby, make it, or bake it from scratch in a local kitchen.

Jonesborough Farmers Market, Jonesborough, Tenn.
Local farmers and artisans sell produce and hand-made crafts every Saturday morning from 8 a.m. to noon from May to October with the exception of July 6 (Jonesborough Days), Oct. 5 (International Storytelling Festival) and Oct. 26 (Haunted Half Marathon). Music fills the air from 9 to 11 a.m. by local musicians and a café area offers patrons a chance to sit and enjoy coffee and mingle with other local food enthusiasts.

Market Square, Knoxville, Tenn.
Market Square was established in 1854 and within a decade, was the busiest place in the growing city in Knoxville. It was a center of political activity, witnessing speeches by Booker T. Washington, William Jennings Bryan and Ronald Reagan. The old Market House was used by Union troops as a barracks and magazine. Local farmers and those from surrounding counties crowded the square with wagons of produce and wares to sell to the city population. Today, it remains at the center of the city's life, with an eclectic blend of dining, shopping, entertainment and special events.

The Market Square Farmers’ Market (MSFM) is an open-air farmers’ market located on Market Square. Everything at the MSFM is grown or made by the vendor in the East Tennessee region. With interactive fountains, delicious local food, and surrounded by shops and restaurants, the MSFM is a perfect family destination. The MSFM runs Wednesdays 11 a.m. to 2 p.m. and Saturdays 9 a.m. to 2 p.m., May thru November.

New Harvest Park Farmers Market, Knoxville, Tenn.
New Harvest Park Farmers Market, located at a Knox County park, features fresh, locally grown produce, gourmet baked goods and food items and handmade crafts. Held each Thursday from 3 until 6 p.m. from April through December, the New Harvest Park Farmers Market also presents cooking demonstrations, a community garden and various programs concerning gardening, composting, recycling and conservation. A quarter mile walking trail, splash pad and playground located in the park offer additional entertainment for patrons.

Maryville Farmers' Market, Maryville, Tenn.
Along with fresh produce, the Maryville Farmers' Market offers special events such as chef demonstrations, children's activities, food trucks and live music. Located in downtown Maryville on Broadway at Founders' Square, the market is open every Saturday morning from 9 a.m. to noon from May to November.

Downtown Farmers Market, Murray, Ky.
The Downtown Farmers Market on the court square in Murray, Ky. is a staple Saturday activity from May until October 7th. Farmers and crafters come from all around the region to provide local fare for customers to enjoy. The bread is baked in neighborhood kitchens, and vegetables come from fields nearby. Even crafters who sell goods at the market are required to handcraft their products. Hours are 7 a.m. to noon.

Cadiz Trigg County Farmer's Market, Cadiz, Ky.
This open-air market offers a great selection of breads, pies and turnovers from local bakers, honey, local farm raised pork and beef, produce, jams and jellies and plants and flowers. Hours are Wednesdays and Saturdays 7 a.m. to noon, May through September.

Click here for more information on farmers markets in the Tennessee River Valley.

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