Farmers markets look to supply locals amidst commercial grocery shortage

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As grocery stores face a shortage of meat, eggs, bread, jarred and canned goods, produce and more, some Williamson County farmers markets are hoping to produce a steadier flow of food for shoppers while continuing to support local food vendors. 

The Franklin Farmers Market, which meets outside The Factory at Franklin every Saturday morning, will continue to meet during its normal hours while, of course, emphasizing safe practices to keep vendors and customers healthy. 

“(We’re) just making sure our customers have access to food. That’s really what it is all about,” said Amy Tavalin, director of the Franklin Farmers Market. “Our farmers are growing food, obviously, and it would just be wasted in the field if we didn’t have an outlet for it.” 

Tavalin said some of the market’s 60-some winter vendors have delivery capabilities, such as Hatcher Family Dairy, but the market will stay open to provide an outlet for some of the smaller vendors, as well, and to increase access for local shoppers to items like fresh bread, eggs, meat, dairy, produce and even some jarred and prepared foods. 

She explained shopping locally even limits the number of hands that touch customers’ food before it gets to them. 

“Our food only travels about 50 miles, and with small family farms, not a lot of hands come in contact with the food,” she said. “All our vendors are required to follow the safe food handling requirements by the Tennessee Department of Agriculture and FDA, so we feel that it’s the safest food-secure environment for our customers.” 

Additionally, Tavalin explained there is naturally quite a bit of space between vendors to begin with, but the market will increase its spacing to further promote social distancing. Some vendors will also have hand sanitizer available, and customers will have access to hand-washing stations. Vendors that typically provide food samples will not do so to limit person-to-person contact. 

“(We’re) encouraging people to think about their own health and safety, and don’t put anybody at unnecessary risk. If they’re not feeling well, stay home,” she said. “As long as we can, we’re going to stay open, so we’ll just see how it plays out.” 

Tavalin said the market may eventually decide to switch to a pick-up or drive-thru model, but as of now, she plans to run the market normally. 

The East Franklin Farmers Market, which meets every Saturday morning at Liberty Park in McKay’s Mill, will also remain open for the time being. James Gardner, who runs the market with four to five winter vendors, described this market as selling “healthy options only,” offering organic produce and (as much as possible) organic baked goods and prepared items. 

For Gardner, the focus is quality over quantity. He said this is a “neighborhood market, not a tourist destination,” and he hopes to promote healthy living in a time when those choices could make all the difference. 

“The best defense for staying healthy is just (to) eat healthy every day,” he said. “It’s all about the immune system.” 

This market is currently offering a drive-thru option, where people can drive up and have items brought to their cars. 

Markets will open soon in other parts of the county as well. The Nolensville Farmers Market, located at 7248 Nolensville Road, is set to open April 25, and the Thompson’s Station Farmers Market, located at 1513 Thompson’s Station Road West, will open on May 14. 

According to market manager Kasi Haire, as of now, there are no plans to postpone the opening date. However, due to a lack of hosting locations, the Berry Farms and Brentwood markets will not open this year. 

Currently, 55 vendors have registered for the Nolensville market and 23 for Thompson’s Station. Haire is continuing to update locals on vendor information on the markets’ websites, nolensvillefarmersmarket.com and tsfarmersmarket.org, and on their Facebook and Instagram pages. 

According to Spring Hill Parks and Recreation, the Spring Hill Farmers Market is also still set to open May 7, though they are continuing to monitor the changing conditions of the area to inform their decisions. 

The Franklin Farmers Market is currently operating under its winter hours, 9 a.m. to noon, but will switch to its summer hours, 8 a.m. to 1 p.m., in May. More information can be found at franklinfarmersmarket.com.

The East Franklin Farmers Market operates 10 a.m. to 1 p.m. in the winter and will run from 9 a.m. to 2 p.m. starting in mid-April. Additionally, when more summer produce becomes available, the market will also meet on Wednesdays from 2 p.m. to 6 p.m. For more information, visit eastfranklinfarmersmarket.com.

Upon opening, the Nolensville Farmers Market will meet every Saturday from 8 a.m. to noon until it switches to winter hours in November, and the Thompson’s Station Farmers Market will meet every Thursday from 4 p.m. to 7 p.m. until mid-October.

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