Farmers in east Tennessee have been keeping it fresh and local for 35 years! The East Tennessee Farmers Association for Retail Marketing (FARM) will host anniversary celebrations at the Knoxville and Oak Ridge FARM Markets on Friday and Saturday, September 2 and 3, 2011.
“We just may be the longest continuous running farmers market in Tennessee,” says FARM Board president Bill Everhart of Purring Dog Farm. “Our nonprofit organization was officially chartered in August 1976.”
East Tennessee farmers launched the FARM Markets based on the success of a Nashville Food Fair that was started by two law students from Vanderbilt University and the University of Tennessee in the summer of 1975. According to founding FARM member Bud Cannon, the students wanted to provide an agriculture program that would give farmers access to new markets and provide an outlet for farmers to sell directly to the public. A year later, East Tennessee farmers built upon the Food Fair idea and chartered the FARM organization. Initially FARM held three markets in Knoxville and one in Oak Ridge, FARM Markets operated in the Bearden community, at Meridian Baptist and Broadway Baptist in Knoxville.
The Oak Ridge FARM market operated from various church parking lots until finding a home next to historic Jackson Square. The Oak Ridge Market operates on Wednesdays from 3 p.m. to 6 p.m., and Saturdays from 8 a.m. until noon. The Knoxville FARM market operates on Tuesdays and Fridays from 3 p.m. to 6 p.m. in the parking lot of the Laurel Church of Christ at the corner of Kingston Pike and Cherokee Boulevard.
“It is an achievement to have kept these markets operating all these years,” says Everhart. “And, it is even more amazing when you consider that two of the founding FARM members are still active members of the markets.” Bud and Jo Cannon are staples at the Oak Ridge FARM Market where they offer tomatoes and other produce grown on their farm in Powell. Meanwhile, the son of the other surviving charter member, Julian Hopper known as “The Corn Man,” continues his father’s tradition of offering locally grown corn at the Oak Ridge FARM Market.
The Knoxville FARM Market will host a 35th anniversary celebration during the market on Friday, September 2, 2011. Meanwhile, the Oak Ridge celebration will be held during the Saturday morning market on September 3, 2011 from 8 until noon.
The Knoxville anniversary celebration will kick off when Knox County Mayor Tim Burchett officially signals the opening of the market at 3:00 p.m. Musical
entertainment will be provided by the The Spurgeon Boys bluegrass band. Volunteer TV’s Chef Walter and WBIR-TV regular Miss Olivia will be demonstrating foods prepared with local produce and offering samples. Some farmers will be offering samples and/or demonstrations such as tomato tasting from Crosswind Farms and an observation beehive from Rose Comb Farms. Representatives from Pick Tennessee Products will be on hand to share in the celebrations at both markets.
The Oak Ridge anniversary will launch when Oak Ridge Mayor Tom Beehan officially opens the markets on Saturday morning at 8:00. Market favorite, Xavier Presley will be whipping up breakfast omelets, while customers enjoy the bluegrass music of Wade Darnell. Kellye Wilson from Star Farm will demonstrate how to make bowls, birdhouses and ornaments from dried gourds. Teresa Myrick from Jericho Farms will bring a flower press to show customers how to preserve flowers and herbs for use in crafts such as note cards and bookmarks.
For more information on FARM Markets, visit www.easttnfarmmarkets.org.