Chattanooga’s farmers market scene has exploded. So eat up.
"Eat your vegetables!”
Didn’t most of us grow up hearing that from our parents? Well, if you live in Chattanooga, you’re in luck—there are more than 1,500 farms within a hundred miles of the Scenic City growing all kinds of fresh food for local consumption. We have one of the most diverse and unique selections of farmers markets anywhere in the country from which to choose. Many of the markets are exclusively organic, while others allow a little bit of the commercial products in for diversity of selection.
Saint Alban’s Farmers Market is open 9:30 a.m. –12:30 p.m. at 7514 Hixson Pike, Hixson. Their motto is: From the farm to your table. You’ll find fresh free-range non-GMO eggs, USDA grass-fed beef and pork, baked goods, and seasonal fruit and vegetables. They also have spices, herb blends, plants, baked goods and even goat’s milk soap and lotions.
One of the many vendors there is the soon-to-be world famous Tombstone’s gourmet spice rub. Owner Todd Erwin creates grilling rubs for all your BBQ needs, including savory Trail Dust, smokey Sea Smoke, and for those who like a little kick in their meat, spicy Camp Fire.
Market Manager Dee Clark is open to any new vendor that would like to come and join in this friendly local market at the St. Alban’s Episcopal Church just outside of the Scenic City. Go north on Hixson Pike toward Lakesite and it will be on the right just past Thrasher Pike. When you see a sign in a specific area of the lot with the words ”Thou Shalt Not Park Here,” you’ll know that you have arrived. A little church market humor!
Ooltewah Nursery & Landscape Co., Inc. hosts the Ooltewah Farmers Market. Their motto is: Fresh from your neighbors’ farms to your family’s table. Open every Thursday March-October from 3 to 6 p.m. and November-April 3 to 5 p.m. Sponsored exclusively by the nursery, the market has local vendors who are personally visited and inspected by Angel Miller, director of marketing and also co-owner of Two Angels Mushroom Farm in Harrison.
I asked Miller why she thought there are now so many markets in our area. She said that she and growchattanooga.org networked together with others to raise awareness of local markets and promote healthier eating and living. Locally grown food gets to your plate faster and it’s fresher and much more flavorful than industrially grown food. In Ooltewah and Collegedale, this is your local market to visit.
Crabtree Farms at 1000 E. 39th Street is a nonprofit organization promoting sustainable agriculture and hosting many events year round. It was started in 1998 through a public and private partnership. With over 22 acres of land, it is also a teaching farm and playground where students visit and learn about farming. Field trips are available to different group ages and grade levels. The regular staff, along with volunteers, cultivate over 120 varieties of sustainably grown fruits, vegetables and herbs.
The on-site Farm Stand is open Friday and Saturday for those who want to buy fresh produce along with perennial plants and local co-op items (honey, soil amendments, farm books etc.). They also offer a Community Supported Agriculture program (CSA) for those who would like to support the farm and receive top-grade fresh products weekly.
The Brainerd Farmers Market is on the corner of Belvoir Avenue and Brainerd Road at Grace Episcopal Church. Open from 10 a.m, to noon on Saturdays, the market has one of the most convenient locations for accessibility and parking. Many vendors have home-grown, or home-cooked items from their own houses (disclaimers added as privately made in-house). Sometimes, during wintertime they have the market inside the church. How’s that for accommodating?
Don’t be surprised to see a vendor break out a guitar and serenade the crowd as they shop. Live animals sometime show up for petting and even a goat-milking demonstration has been known to occur. The overhead trees make for a nice shady atmosphere on hot summer days.
The Main Street Farmers Market is open all year long on Wednesdays at 4 p.m., at 325 E. Main St. Their mission is to inspire healthy, environmentally responsible lifestyles by fostering relationships within the local food community. Here you may freeze in the winter or burn up in the summer—but your choice of products is vast! In April, the market transitions to summer hours with the seasonal opener called Spring-ama-jig!
Open hours increase from one-hour wintertime to two-hour summer time. The traditional ringing of the cowbell at 4 p.m. lets all know that it is time to begin shopping. The diversity of vendors includes a varied collection of locally grown foods, with crafts and other choices; for instance: Blue Indian Kombucha. Owners Zach and Karen Atchley make the fermented tea drink using locally grown herbs and produce.
Market Manager Laura Snell with her two lovely assistants, Abby and Cora (her daughters) make sure everything runs smoothly. Sign up for the weekly email and know who will be there and what they plan to bring every Wednesday at: mainstreetfarmersmarket.com
The Signal Mountain Farmers Market takes place on Thursdays, 4 to 6 p.m., at 1210 Taft Highway, 20 minutes from Gig City atop beautiful Signal Mountain. Here you’ll find, for example, certified organic growers Signal Market Farm, which offers a CSA for those who wish to have a stake in the farm’s growth. It is geared toward a 24-week season.
Members join before the growing season so that the farm has the capital necessary to begin planting, and they receive a weekly share of the bounty starting in May and ending in October. When you pick up your CSA box/bag, it will be filled with the latest seasonal variety of fruits and vegetables according. Signal Mountain Farm has been supplying local restaurants, groceries and farmers markets with over 60 varieties of produce for nearly 20 years.
One of the newest groups on the scene is the Lookout Farmers Markets. They have a market somewhere in town open every weekday. With seven markets open in the area already, get ready for their new market coming July 13 in Red Bank, at the Red Bank United Methodist Church, 3800 Dayton Blvd.
It will be open Mondays from 4 to 7 p.m. Other locations: Hamilton YMCA, 7430 Shallowford Rd., Mondays, 4 to 7 p.m.; Audobon Acres, 900 N. Sanctuary Rd., Tuesdays, 4 to 7 p.m.; Lookout Mountain City Hall, 1214 Lula Lake Rd., Wednesdays, 4 to 7 p.m.; St. Elmo Incline, 3917 St. Elmo Ave., Fridays, 4 to 7 p.m.; and Grow Hope Youth Farm-Market Stand, 1800 Roanoke Ave., Saturdays, 10 a.m. to 1 p.m.
The USDA recently awarded a $3.3 million grant to the AARP Foundation, along with its nutrition partners, which include the Lookout Farmers Market. This money will be used to help low-income families find affordable foods that will help improve their health and overall quality of life. For more information, contact the founder of Lookout Farmers Market, Lori Carter, at (423) 838.9804 or visit the website, LookoutFarmersMarket.org
Last on our list and by no means least is the big one: The Chattanooga Market. Located downtown at the First Tennessee Pavilion, this is the daddy of all markets in the Chattanooga area and is open Sundays 11 a.m. to 4 p.m. Events begin for the year in April and run through early December. The Market expands on Saturdays into the Aquarium Plaza downtown, and is open from 10 a.m. to 5 p.m.
The future looks really good for a new and modern market coming to Collegedale. The template will be the Chattanooga Market, which has partnered with the Collegedale Tomorrow Foundation. The proposal calls for use of an 8-acre tract of land between Swinyar Drive and the Collegedale walking trail. The proposed 10,000-square-foot event barn will also have conference areas and an open-air structure for the market and other activities. All of this will be located directly behind Collegedale City Hall and Police Department in an area to be called the Collegedale Commons.
Collegedale Tomorrow Foundation’s Director David Barto says that this idea has been more than 12 years in the planning. The Collegedale Market will help ease some of the traffic downtown, and both markets should still be able to thrive. Barto states that if everything falls into place, the market should be ready to go by early spring/summer of 2016.
Most farmers accept credit/debit cards and some even take EBT and SNAP. Of course, cash is still king. Small bills are your best bet. Usually fives and ones are welcomed at all of the markets. Don’t come with hundred-dollar bills, unless of course you are buying in bulk. The farmers will appreciate your consideration in this area.
If you want to make sure you are eating or purchasing fresh local food, be sure and look for the “Harvested Here” label when you dine out or shop. It will indicate that you can trust that the store; restaurant or market is supporting our local farms. And also remember, when you see the label, it means that the restaurants displaying it certify the food and ingredients were locally grown within a hundred-mile radius of Chatt Town.
And to find out more about local farms and food in the Chattanooga region, check out the printed version of Tastebuds Local Food Guide. Or see it online at growchattanooga.org/tastebuds
We now have more choices than ever to eat local and healthy here. So, now that you have even more reasons to get out and shop and buy locally produced foods, you have no excuse not to “eat your vegetables!” Your mother would be proud!