Skip to content

Market Square Farmers’ Market

June 13, 2010

Looking south from Market Square down Market Street

Market Square is the center of vibrant downtown revitalization efforts. The plaza just north of Krutch Park and east a few blocks from the World’s Fair (1982) Park is a gathering place for many, and on Saturday mornings, that is no exception when area farmers drive their vans and trucks into the area to display their wares. While the first ever International Biscuit Festival helped increase participant numbers, the market, as I was told, is always a bustling affair.

Attendance estimates for the June 5 market and Biscuit Festival were at 5,000 people, which I fully believe. After a short walk from my hotel, I arrived on Market Street around 9:30 – the market opens at 9:00 – to find a throng of people battling the quickly warming sun for tickets to the Biscuit Boulevard tasting tour. Five dollars was the cost of tickets and the tickets were sold out before I could make my way, leisurely, through the market after a short talk with a friend about UT’s English PhD program. Biscuits were hot on everyone’s mind, and I was overwhelmed by the turnout and chose to avoid the masses focusing on the market first.

Migrating from Colorado to Missouri to Tennessee, it was apparent the shift in growing weather. As Deborah Madison points out in her cookbook Local Flavors: Cooking and Eating from America’s Farmers’ Markets, “Spring, bringing apple blossoms, moves ever northward.” What is being harvested in California in June is not necessarily what is being harvested in Oregon or Iowa or New York or even Tennessee. Markets spring to life when weather and climate permit. It sounds simple, but it is easy to forget this fact when we can buy grapes or citrus or tomatoes and peppers all year long in the grocery store when in fact, naturally and regionally, they have their own germination limitations.

As I found out from a few of the producers and farmers whom I spoke with, the growing season this year has been going rather well, especially when compared to the previous year and the large amounts of rainfall that devastated certain crops. The market and its producers displayed a bit of everything from kale, field greens, and broccoli to tomatoes, garlic, and squash. It was quite a display of fresh produce, including both cooler weather crops such as the greens, and the warmer weather crops – tomatoes and garlic.

While some of the produce started to run low as the day progressed, I have come to realize that some farmers will keep their stock low as a marketing tool in order to create a sense of urgency in the consumer. Likewise, others will really dress their stands up in order to attract people to their tables because looks can be very convincing for a consumer. These techniques have both worked on me, but I’m not sure that the empty-looking bins were really running low or were just not being refilled. As you will see in many of my photos, I have been definitely attracted to the more subjectively arranged displays, which is probably a natural physiological reaction as well as some of my background working in a grocery store coming through.

Of course there are other ways many producers work the consumers throughout the course of the morning. Many hawk their wares, asking if passing customers would like to try their cheese, and some are flat out telling those passing to “try my cheese,” “try this tomato; it’s the best tomato you’ll ever eat,” or “have you tried my beef? try this beef.” In Knoxville, the producers were a little more laid back, on average, and simply waited for the consumers to come up and ask for or grab a chip and try the salsa, honey, jam, etc. Much of the producers enthusiasm for the consumer can be dictated based on time of day and weather.

Other times, if you hang out around a tent long enough, especially if you are taking pictures, gawking at the product, especially those that are a little more unique, trying to wrap your head around what it is being sold – such as Honey Jelly – then they are pretty apt to speak out to you, asking if you’d like a sample. At the Honeyberry Farms tent, I sampled their Pecan Honey Jelly, which filled the air with the aroma of pecan when the girl opened the jar to dip the small wooden paddle into the syrupy like substance. Honestly, I was expecting more of a honey flavor, feeling as if the pecan overpowered the “jelly” experience.

Even though I didn’t purchase any Honey Jelly, in the past, I have been more apt to purchase those items of which I have been offered a sample. I certainly wish more stands were as inviting as those who are eager to offer samples and take a minute to talk about their product with you without the pressure. The Honeyberry Farms people were definitely a good example of this type of customer service as were the folks at The Fruit and Berry Patch, offering up a strawful (about a knuckles worth) of their “famous” BBQ sauce.

Also, the woman working the Musick Mountain Farms tent was welcoming as well, and I spoke with her for quite a while – and during a swift gust of wind, I had flashbacks of Denver and Boulder when tents where lifting off the ground – and ended up buying some Kohl Rahbi, which I had never heard of nor tried before until I chopped them up just the other night in a sautee with some Red Russian kale with an orange, basil vinagrette, and dried Jalapenos (probably crossed with cayenne, she said) and dried Thai Chiles.

The garlic in the photo above was purchased from the dude in the photo below. He was a little frustrated, to say the least, with his garlic supplier for supplying him with seed that came with a bit of a disease that about wiped out his crop.

To continue speaking of generous producers, farmers, craftspeople, etc., Melissa Ball at Stony Clay Station Pottery was quite interested in sharing with me her experiences at other markets and some of the info about the adverse impact of all the rain in the area in previous years (and, to an extent, this year). Her pottery display had an inviting aesthetic appeal and she was more than willing to engage her potential customers before any questions were asked on their part. If I make it back through Knoxville on my return west, then I hope to pick up some of her salsa bowls or mugs, at the least.

Stony Clay Station is on Facebook

I’ll post some more pictures from the market after a bit.

No comments yet

Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in: Logo

You are commenting using your account. Log Out /  Change )

Google photo

You are commenting using your Google account. Log Out /  Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )

Connecting to %s

%d bloggers like this: