There’s something to be said about visiting a local farmers’ market while visiting a new city – or exploring your own. Local markets are an unparalleled way to feel the pulse of a city, get to know the community, and perhaps even savor a few tasty treats along the way. And, if you’re wondering where to find something to eat, odds of finding a vegetarian bite at a market are pretty good. Is there anything better than farm fresh produce, after all? With that in mind, VT will be checking in with great farmers’ markets around the world for a recurring series we’re calling VT Market Visit. This edition: Main Street Farmers Market in Chattanooga, TN.
Main Street Farmers Market in Chattanooga, TN
You might not immediately think that Chattanooga would be a hotspot for organic and vegetarian-friendly food culture but the Tennessee town has recently been making waves for its sustainable and eco-friendly approach to local cuisine and farming—and the Main Street Farmers Market is leading the way.
The local market pops up right behind the Chattanooga Brewing Company like clockwork every Wednesday afternoon and disappears just as quickly by 6pm—but despite its guest appearance each week, the Main Street Farmers Market is packed with food-focused farmers and makers with a similar guiding ethos. To sell at the market, all farmers must be located within a 100-mile radius of downtown Chattanooga and must be committed to sustainable farming methods. Food artisans and bakers must subscribe to similar guidelines including a commitment to using local ingredients whenever possible.
Considered Chattanooga’s only local sustainable food focused farmers market, this little market’s goal is to be as earth-friendly as possible. The board currently works toward greater sustainability with projects aimed at cutting down post-consumer waste by providing vendors with items like recycled paper bags, elastic bands, egg cartons, and other items that would typically go straight to the recycling bin.
Must-Visit Farmers and Makers
Located in Sewanee, Tennessee, Midway Mushrooms specializes in gourmet and rare mushroom production as well as wild-foraged mushrooms. It’s here you’ll find just about any mushroom species you might be after—from lion’s mane and oyster mushrooms to classic shiitake and cremini.
You might not immediately think about picking up a bouquet of flowers when checking out a local market—but trust us when we say that a smart curation of wild flowers and foliage will always be worth it. Southerly Flower Farm does local wildflowers extremely well; focusing on sustainable flower practices without sacrificing aesthetics.
Bread and Butter is going to be your best bet for creative and classic breads, cakes, tarts, and even hand-made pastas. The sustainable bakery believes in a “low and slow” fermentation technique—rather than pumping their baked goods with different types of yeasts they prefer to take the time to allow for a more natural rising process that gives their bread a much better taste and texture.
Circle S Farm has been in the business of sustainable farming for nearly two decades—and shows no signs of slowing down. The community-supported farm focuses on regenerative farming practices and reducing food waste by donating to the Chattanooga Food Bank and even turning “ugly” produce into dog treats. The farm is also known for somewhat uncommon vegetables and fruit—like locally-grown edamame!
High quality and locally-sourced CBD products can be hard to find—but Farm to Med makes the experience so much easier. The team behind Farm to Med prides themselves on their sustainable and safe farming methods that allow their clients to know exactly what has gone into their wellness products—all the way down to the name of the farmer who harvested the buds.
The mission of the Main Street Farmers Market is to “inspire healthy, environmentally responsible lifestyles by fostering relationships within the local food community” by way of creating accessible and locally-grown foods to all of Greater Chattanooga while making the farmers market both fun and sustainable.
The Main Street Farmers Market created the “Market Bingo” initiative as a way to give lesser-known and newer vendors more exposure among regular market goers. The unique bingo cards have a spot for all thirty shops and stalls across the market and offer seasonal prizes for those who get bingo. After all, what better way to encourage regular shoppers to diversify their go-to vendors than with a market-wide game of bingo?
Free Range Recycling Program
The Free Range Recycling Program was conceived over a year ago as a solution to common consumer waste from shopping at the market (think egg cartons and paper grocery bags). The initiative is a collaborative effort between the Main Street Farmers Market and Green Spaces Chattanooga that not only creates a more sustainable market life but also helps to provide post-consumer goods to vendors for reuse.