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Farmers' Market 411

Top 10 Tips for Shopping at the Nashville Farmers’ Market

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The Nashville Farmers’ Market, located in the center of the downtown urban core, has been feeding Nashville and the surrounding area since 1801. The market is home to more than 150 vendors throughout the year, and is open seven days a week from 8 a.m. to 6 p.m. Here are the top 10 tips for shopping at the Nashville Farmers’ Market, no matter what the season may be.

Wheels, Tikes and Totes. Named the most standout farmers’ market in Tennessee by USA Today, the Nashville Farmers’ Market is an expansive, 12-acre facility featuring an award-winning garden center, a nationally recognized food hall and two open-air farm sheds that are home to more than 100 merchants on Saturdays during peak season. With so much to explore, a little help with a hefty market haul is a major plus. For glass jugs of fresh milk, and booming bouquets of spring greens, sturdy canvas or vinyl shopping totes prove superior to a plastic sack. And in late summer when heirloom pumpkins and mums arrive at market, wagons are the way to go to transport larger items to the car. (Insider Tip: Kids love exploring the sights and sounds at the Nashville Farmers’ Market, just like mom and dad. So grab their favorite Radio Flyer and have them help with the trek back to the car.)

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Bring an Appetite. With one walk through the farm sheds during peak season at the Nashville Farmers’ Market, you can sample an assortment of foods such as strawberries, peaches, pecans, sweet corn, kettle corn, artisan cheeses, fresh cakes and lots more. And with the 16 international restaurants inside the Market House food hall, you’ll certainly want to visit with an empty stomach and an appetite for culinary adventure!

Winter is Wonderful at Market! Crops might not be booming out of the fields during the offseason in Tennessee, but there’s still much to taste and discover at the Nashville Farmers’ Market. The market hosts a Winter Market every Saturday under the farm sheds, where shoppers find locally raised meats, hot prepared foods, freshly baked breads, artisans cheeses, farm eggs, breakfast sausages, ready-to-eat brioche rolls, hot coffee and lots more. So, don’t forget to shop year-round at the market and discover why winter is so wonderful. (Insider Tip: Winter Market can be chilly, so bundle up—it’s worth it.)

Shop For Unique Crafts and Holiday Gifts. There’s a lot more to discover other than fresh farm food at the market. Shoppers can find local artisan foods, handmade crafts and unique flea items every day of the week. In December, the Holiday Marketplace is where to purchase locally made, one-of-a-kind gifts, and shoppers can sip and shop the night away with local artisans every third Friday of the month at Night Market.

Be the Early Bird. Arriving early not only ensures a premium parking spot and easier access to the market, but also first pick at the season’s freshest foods. Unlike chain grocery stores, produce at a farmers’ market is harvested the night before or the morning it’s available. Therefore, the earlier in the day, the more likely you are to find the best goods before they are gone. Early-bird shoppers are also more likely to find popular-yet-limited items like asparagus and fresh mushrooms that are prone to selling out. (Insider Tip: French crepes, Mexican omelettes and other breakfast foods are available seven days a week inside the Market House. Coffee, too. )

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Bulk Up at the Best Times. Buying in bulk is the path to year-long freshness, but knowing the best times to purchase large quantities is key. Ask a farmer when to purchase a flat of strawberries for preserving or freezing, or when those cucumbers will taste the best for pickling. Knowing the right time of the season to purchase in bulk is invaluable knowledge that shoppers can learn from their farmers.

Keep it Cool. With all the locally raised meats to purchase at the market, you’ll want to have a handy thermal bag or cooler in the car to keep items that are frozen or refrigerated at the correct temperature. Shop for grass-fed rib-eye steaks and dry-aged NY strips for grilling, standing rib roasts and pastured turkeys for holiday meals, plus breakfast sausages, cuts of lamb, whole chickens and all the brats. You’ll also find artisan cheeses, freshly squeezed juices and pints of tasty ice cream to keep cool on the drive home.

Fragile—Handle with Care! The varieties of fruits and vegetables found at the Nashville Farmers’ Market are not your typical grocery store stock. They travel a very short distance from the field to your fork, and are harvested at the peak of freshness and flavor. This means that locally grown fruits and vegetables are more tender and delicate than bred-to-ship varieties, and need to be handled with care. Farmers warn against leaving fresh Tennessee strawberries in a hot car, and suggest that squeezing the flesh of a ripe tomato or peach is a no-no. (Insider Tip: Don't forget that farmers’ markets are where you’ll find unique varieties not typically displayed in a supermarket grocery store. So give that purple bell pepper or lime-green zucchini a try.)

Small Bills and SNAP Cards. It’s always a good idea to bring multiple methods of payment to the Nashville Farmers’ Market, since some merchants are keen on only accepting cash. If you forgot your small bills, a debit card will get you the green at the ATM inside the Market House. Also, several farmers accept EBT cards. EBT shoppers can save their receipts to earn an extra $20 on fresh fruits and vegetables through the Fresh Savings program every Wednesday and Saturday. Visit nashvillefarmersmarket.org for more details.

Safe Food Options at TN Farmers' Markets

Shopping at the farmers' market is a wonderful way to support your local economy, meet the farmer who grows your food and the baker who bakes your bread. Like any food product you purchase at a grocery store, it is important to know what the labels mean so you can make informative decision about the foods you buy for your family.

The TN Department of Agriculture’s Consumer and Industry Services issued a farmers' market state compliance guide for vendors who sell their products at TN farmers' markets. In the guide it states:

  • Processed foods in any form and packaged for resale offered at a farmers' market must come from a licensed and inspected facility unless it is non‐potentially hazardous food prepared in a domestic kitchen. (T.C.A. § 53‐1‐208).
  • "Non‐potentially hazardous food" means jam, jellies, candy, dried mixes and other such food that do not meet the definition of potentially hazardous food. (T.C.A. § 53‐8‐117(a)(2))
  • Unlicensed vendors of non‐potentially hazardous food are required to place a sign (8.5''x 11" with 3/4'' font) at the point of sale and on the label which states “These product(s) were made in a private home not licensed or inspected” (T.C.A. § 53‐8‐117).

Beginning in July 2018, the Department of Agriculture will no longer be inspecting domestic kitchens since the foods made in domestic kitchens are all foods that do not pose a risk to the public. In the long run this will save tax dollars and prevent regulations from impeding on direct sales entrepreneurs.

To learn more about how and where the product was made, you can talk with the farmer at your local farmers' market. If your farmer is selling a potentially hazardous food, the label should note that it was made in a licensed and inspected kitchen.

"Potentially hazardous food" means any food that consists in whole or in part of milk or milk products, eggs, meat, poultry, fish, shellfish, edible crustaceans, or other ingredients which is in a form capable of supporting rapid and progressive growth of infectious or toxigenic microorganisms, home canned foods other than jams and jellies, or any food that requires temperature control for safety.” (T.C.A. § 53‐8‐117(a)(3).

Canned foods, other than jams and jellies, can only be sold if processed by a licensed and inspected operation. These kinds of processed food are classified as “formulated acid foods” and “acidified foods.” There are specific regulations for each, and it is best to avoid canned goods that are not made in a proper facility.

Farmers' markets are a wonderful option for buying your weekly groceries from people you trust to grow and bake your food, and TN markets are striving to conduct business with the best food safety possible. Know your farmer and know that you have the ability to safely and affordably feed your family with locally made and grown TN food!

- Amy Tavalin, Executive Director Franklin Farmers’ Market

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