Farmers market offers unique, locally grown products

Published 3:22 pm Tuesday, June 28, 2022

By Angela Cutrer
The Elizabethton Farmers Market is again available to customers in the area thanks to the caring nature of the people who first — and later — believed the event offered a valuable and necessary arena for local farmers and artisans.
But it wasn’t easy to open the market — and then open it again.
“We opened in 2017 as the ‘Downtown Elizabethton Farmers Market,’ but closed in 2020 and 2021 due to the COVID-19 pandemic,” said the market’s manager, Donica Krebs. “I managed the market for those three years. We had a board under a local nonprofit, but it dissolved during our hiatus.”
Krebs said she refused to give up on the market, so she headed to the local chamber to see if she could find needed help.
“As an owner of a small permaculture farm in Carter County, I have always had a passion for local agriculture and I hadn’t given up the dream of an Elizabethton market,” she said. “I approached the Elizabethton Chamber of Commerce Foundation in April 2022 as a last-ditch effort to reopen the market. They were extremely willing to be the sponsors for the market by financially sponsoring our event insurance and were very helpful with having their staff assist in website and media design, marketing [and so on].”
The chamber’s executive director, Joy McCray, said the chamber will always be supportive in encouraging customers to shopping locally.
“We always support our local vendors and helping the community get to know not only the farmers growing awesome fruits and vegetables, but also [learning about the offers of] handmade items, bakery goods and some really cool things vendors are making,” she said. “They are right here and that’s a great opportunity for our community to come together and learn more about the farmers market, farm to table and farm goods.”
The Chamber Foundation teamed with Krebs and other volunteers to get the market back up and running. “[The chamber] sponsors the market and we owe our existence to them,” Krebs said. “The Elizabethton Parks and Rec Department also facilitates us by providing the Covered Bridge Park for our weekly use.”
Krebs received training through the TDA for market management. She stays up to date on continuing education courses for farmers market leadership. “I have a committee of two qualified community members and one vendor liaison who assists in decision making, application approval and resources,” she said.
“We have a few kind community members who volunteer their time as well. We are all unpaid volunteers.”
They relaunched the market as simply the “Elizabethton Farmers Market,” leaving out the “downtown” part of the name. “While it is technically a completely different market since it is under a new sponsor and new name, many of the vendors and customers stayed loyal and have returned after a two-year hiatus,” Krebs said. “We have also welcomed many new businesses and farms into the fold.”
Customers have a lot to choose from at the new market: fresh produce and fruit (picked that morning), USDA pasture-raised meats, free range eggs, local honey, artisan breads, specialty baked goods, jams and jellies, pet treats, handcrafted soaps, artisan crafts, herbal products, live plants and more. Many of the vendors offer unique items, such as rare and odd heirloom produce like purple cauliflower, kohlrabi, and Native American varieties of tomatoes, corn and beans. The market includes two loyal food trucks, Diggy Donuts and Fire Pizza, Krebs added. “You can always count on a delicious dinner and dessert after you browse.”
She said the market is one of only two farmers markets in all of Northeast Tennessee that are producer only. “This means that everything offered at our market is produced in, or adjacent to, Carter County,” she said. “We do not allow resale of produce from states farther south.
“It is common practice for most farmers markets to allow vendors to buy produce from warmer climates and re-sell it at the market to keep up appearances of abundance during times when harvests are still low at the beginning of the season. We are much less concerned with appearances than we are with quality.
“Every vegetable at the market was grown by our farmers. Every cut of meat was raised on local pastures. Every egg and jar of honey was collected within the 423 area code.
“While this means that sometimes we have less variety during certain times of the season, particularly in the beginning of the season while we wait for summer crops to ripen, our customers can rest assured knowing that every single dollar spent at the EFM stays in our community.”
The market is held at the Covered Bridge Park in downtown Elizabethton, an iconic, historic location in the community. Built in 1882, the bridge undoubtedly saw many horse-drawn wagon loads of fresh produce cross over the river into Elizabethton, brought in by hardworking farmers across Carter County, Krebs said. “We are honored to continue the tradition of local agriculture commerce in our historic community,” she added.
The purpose of the market is to support local farms and businesses, to supply the community with fresh healthy food and to strengthen community ties in order to secure a local food economy. “We all support each other,” Krebs said. “We are all accustomed to being able to walk into a grocery store and have our pick of produce at the drop of a hat, but most of those dollars are ending up in California or another country; we want to focus our efforts on supporting farmers that you can speak with face-to-face each week.”
Though the market is no longer accepting applications for vendors, they are welcomed to apply to join a waiting list. However, Krebs said volunteers and shoppers are always welcomed.
Volunteers and waiting list applicants can email defarmersmarket@gmail.com for more information.
“Spreading the word is the best way to get involved and support us,” Krebs said. “We also would love to host a few more local musicians and have some openings for gigs.”
The market plans to have weekly events eventually. To start off, the market has a big shindig July 12, when it plays host to a Contra-Dance, which is similar to line dancing, called by the world-famous Warren Doyle, founder of the Appalachian Folk School and record holder for the most completed through-hikes on the Appalachian Trail (18 times!).
The market meets Tuesdays from 4-7 p.m. every week from June through August in the Covered Bridge Park, come rain or shine. “We’re farmers, we are not afraid of the rain!” Krebs said with a laugh.

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