Downtown Farmers’ Market brings food of life to Knoxville

Parrish and his employees provide customers with many different coffee brewing methods in-store. However, his most successful venture of late has been the single-origin pour over, which is featured at OCJ's booth during the Downtown Knoxville Farmers' Market each weekend during the spring and fall. Ryan McGill/ TNJN

Jim Smith at the Rushy Springs Farm tent, selling peppers.
Jim Smith is at the Rushy Springs Farm tent selling peppers.
Ryan McGill/ TNJN

Downtown Knoxville’s Market Square was abuzz again Saturday with its bi-weekly Farmers’ Market, offering a large array of fresh, local produce and artisan goods.

The Farmers’ Market, which is in it’s 10th year, doesn’t just give life to the small city, it’s a livelihood for some of the famers who sell their produce in the square.

Jim Smith, a farmer at Rushy Springs Farm said, “I don’t make money without the market.”

Jim isn’t alone. Adam Cotrrill, from Spring Creek Farm said, “This is my only market, this is where I make my money, period.”

Adam has been with the market for ten years, being apart of the original vendors who started the market.

Although the farmers were at the market with a variety of selections, they’ve had some difficulty this year with their crops. “This year has been the hardest ever,” Smith said, “too cold, too wet, the season was late getting started. The weather’s been totally adverse.”

With a new study on climate change and global warming, Smith said, “I think the climate change is a big part of it. There’s a massive change in the jet stream this year that’s caused an enormous amount of chaos. I have no doubt that has at least partially contributed.”

Brandon Rogers, the prep manager at Tomato Head, buys produce from the market for specials and highlighted dishes on the menu.

“Today I will be prepping local Kale, collards and eggplant for tomorrow’s specials. We usually have three daily specials that feature

Eating some goodies at the Market.
A woman and young boy eat some goodies at the Market.
Ryan McGill/ TNJN

two to three Farmers’ Market items,” Rogers said.

Tomato Head has been buying from the Market Square Farmer’s Market for ten years, buying foods that don’t usually sell.

“It started originally when we would go out and buy food that no one was buying, like watermelons that had bad spots,” said Rogers. “Or just something that had a little flaw that people would pass.”

Rogers said,“We don’t mind paying a little more. A lot of the farmers are organic so we usually won’t hesitate to spend a little more to support them. They’re going the extra mile to not use pesticides.”

Knoxville’s Farmers’ Market seems to have something other farmers’ markets don’t. Joann Robinson, a first time patron at the market from Ohio said, “We have a great big market in Cincinnati called Findlay Market. But we don’t have the extensive outdoor charm and location this place does.”

A mother playing with her children at the market.
A mother playing with her children at the market.downtown.
Ryan McGill/TNJN

Unlike supermarkets and online shopping, the Market gives a close interaction with those selling the produce and those buying it.

“The personal interchange with the people that are actually using the products is my favorite part of the market,” said Smith. “I think that’s the way almost all food should be delivered. Rather than anonymously over vast stretches of mileage.”

The Farmer’ Market not only helps the restaurants who use its produce, but other surrounding restaurants and businesses in the city as well. When asked if the market is good for her business, Kelly VanKelegom, the manager at Coffee and Chocolate on Union Ave said, “Oh yes, definitely, without a doubt.”

The Market Square Farmers’ Market starts in May and ends toward the beginning of December. Momentarily leaving the small downtown square without what seems to be a valuable and essential part of Knoxville.

Edited by Jessica Carr