Friday, May 17, 2013

Opening Day at the Rutherford County Farmer's Market

Unfortunately, I've been under the weather the past few days with a nasty spring cold, so I didn't get to post about my May 11th adventure to the opening day of the Rutherford County Farmer's Market in Murfreeesboro, TN until today. Sorry for the late update, but I will give you the scoop on the produce and crafts and how the Farmer's Market works. The hours are 7-12 noon every Tuesday and Friday and it is located on John Rice Blvd. at the Agricultural Center. You can follow them on Facebook here: Farmer's Market Facebook Page

The Farmer's Market is a place where local farmers and artisans get to showcase their locally grown and handmade products, all made with ingredients or plants produced right here in Middle Tennessee. There are seasonal fruits, vegetables, herbs and more, along with jams, baked goods, honey, goat's milk cheese, soap, lotion, and more. Everything is grown or created by each vendor with locally harvested materials. The honey and beeswax vendor even brought a display hive with real bees!

I love farmer's markets because you get to interact with the producer of the foods and products and get to ask questions about how to use unusual plants and support the local economy. The quality of the products is also superior to the grocery store and the freshness is unbeatable. Comparing prices, I discovered the cost of fresh vegetables and fruits at the Farmer's Market was about the same as the supermarket; however, the quality was better. Look at those heads of lettuce in the first picture, beautiful! I bought one, and it tasted great, too.

Other goods, such as jellies and soaps were slightly more expensive than you would find in a commercial grocery store, but have the advantage of being made with locally grown ingredients and being fresher. You can also find niche products and unusual recipes, such as hot pepper and berry jelly and lavender lip balm. I sampled some butter pecan honey that was outstanding!

When you get to the Farmer's Market, you purchase tokens at the entrance using cash, debit, credit, or a food stamps card. These wood tokens are good all season. This helps the individual vendors, so they don't need to have a lot of change on hand. You can also purchase cloth shopping bags and t-shirts. Simply tell the cashier how many dollars of tokens you need, and she will ring you up and swipe your card. To get an idea of how much you will need in tokens, I spent 2.50 dollars for lettuce, 3.00 for a huge butternut squash, 3.00 for pecan bakery bars, and 5.00 dollars for soap.

Some things to keep in mind for planning your shopping trip is to pay attention to the season and what is ready at that time. In early May, there is not a wide variety of crops ready yet, so they were offering many greens and plants to grow in your own garden. Later, when the weather turns hotter, they will have tomatoes, corn, peaches, pumpkins and more. Like the Farmer's Market on Facebook to get updates on what is in season. Also, get to the market early if there is something in particular you want. Strawberries were sold out very early.

This year is the first year the Rover city bus goes to the Farmer's Market. I took the city bus to get there and it was a wonderful experience. I had never been on the new West Side Loop Route and the driver was friendly and informative. The bus drivers also had flyers and posters to promote the market. I think this is amazing that the Farmer's Market is trying to reach out and make locally grown, nutritious produce accessible to elderly and low income people that use the bus. The Rover costs 1 dollar each way and picks up at the Farmer's Market once an hour. Have questions? Ask your driver! All of the Rover drivers are friendly and informative.

Finally, there Farmer's Market offers free classes on subjects such as beekeeping and container gardening. When I visited, they were offering a class on how to grow monster tomatoes. There were also signs up about classes offered at the University on canning and food preservation. The goal is to get the whole community excited about locally grown foods and healthy eating. Not only is food good medicine for the population, but it puts dollars directly into the hands of local farmers and crafters.

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