By Kendal Groner
It’s that time of year again – the time when farmers markets all across the country are buzzing with customers, eager to pick up their farm fresh produce perfect for outdoor grilling, refreshing summer salads, baked goods and much more.
The Town of Erwin kicked off its farmers market season on July 3 as small crowds came and went throughout the evening to see what their local growers had to offer. Now in its third year, the market is coordinated by RISE Erwin young professional group. Jamie Rice, president of RISE Erwin and communications specialist for the Town of Erwin, spoke about the importance of allowing people to become more connected to their food and where it comes from.
“I think knowing where your food comes from has really taken a front seat to our food culture in a way,” Rice said. “We don’t want things that have been shipped thousands of miles and we don’t always know where our food comes from or whether it’s full of preservatives or sprays of pesticides. It’s so nice to be face to face with the grower.”
By purchasing produce at the market, Rice said customers have the opportunity to get to know the farmer and also ask them about their farm, its location and what kind of farming practices they utilize.
“It creates a sort of intimacy with where your food comes from,” she said. “Most of us don’t have gardens in our backyards anymore and so this is the next best thing. Even the farmers can give you tips and tricks on how to cook the produce they are selling.”
Rice said getting to witness the camaraderie of the vendors and the community – all while helping to support a healthy lifestyle – is one of the most exciting parts of market season taking off again.
“It’s more than just getting your fruits and vegetables, it’s about developing those relationships,” she said.
Kale, swiss chard, onions, potatoes, cucumbers, beets, mushrooms, fresh eggs, local meat, canned goods and refreshing summer drinks were all available at the market last week. In addition to the food vendors, several craft vendors were selling items such as handcrafted jewelry, bath bombs, clothing, decorating items and live plants.
“Everybody was really happy with the turnout and we had a great turnout in vendors,” Rice said.
“When we first started we only had two or three vendors and now we have around 15. We’ve pretty much tripled in size.”
To fend off some of the summer heat, RISE Erwin set up a small mister station alongside the market, something Rice said they will definitely continue using.
“The kids and the grownups both loved that and I think that will be a hit the rest of the summer,” Rice said.
Aside from shopping, market attendees can also check out the local food trucks, attend a yoga class and participate in some of the many activities planned to help foster a happy and healthy community.
Each week, yoga classes taught by Bret Forney with the YMCA and other activities, such as a community bike ride organized by RISE Erwin, a splash dance facilitated by the Erwin Fire Department, learning opportunities with the health department, and face painting and barrel trains, are all planned to take place in the coming weeks.
“We’re really happy that the health department is going to sponsor one of those activities each month,” said Rice. “I think they will be doing some nutrition and cooking type demonstrations. It’s all a really fun time.”
The Erwin Farmers Market is held on Tuesdays from 5-8 p.m. in the Unicoi County Courthouse parking lot. For more information about the market, contact [email protected], or call 743-6231 or 423-220-7624.