Farmers market season is quickly approaching as the days get longer and warmer in April. While some markets have been open all year-round, others are gearing up for the big summer rush in the coming weeks.
This year is already promising to be one of the largest for new markets, as over a dozen are currently in or around Chattanooga. In fact, the United States Department of Agriculture recently reported that Tennessee is leading the charge with more new farmers markets opening up in the state than anywhere else in 2014. So what better way to celebrate that than to take a quick look at each one, broken down by region, to let you know which one may be best for you?
—Brainerd Market: Located near the corner of Belvoir Avenue and Brainerd Road, this market has a focus on providing healthy food to the residents of Brainerd who may be on financial assistance, including special programs for low-income market patrons. The market runs from 11 a.m. to noon on Saturdays during winter hours, but beginning April 25, it will run from 10 a.m. until noon.
—Chattanooga Market: When someone in Chattanooga says that they're going to the farmers market, chances are they're talking about this one. The Chattanooga Market on Carter Street downtown is not only the largest producer-only market in the city, but it's also the busiest by far. In addition to local food, the market also features live music, artisans, entertainment and more on Sundays from 11 a.m. to 4 p.m. (starting April 26) and again on Wednesdays from 3 to 6 p.m. (beginning May 6). The Chattanooga Market will also hold a kickoff event on Saturday, April 25 (10 a.m. to 5 p.m.) this year, which will continue into the 26th (11 a.m. to 4 p.m.), at the Carter Street location. But for other Saturdays, you can attend an extension of the main market called the Chattanooga River Market from 10 a.m. to 5 p.m. at the Tennessee Aquarium Plaza.
—Lookout Farmers Market (multiple locations): Another one featuring wonderful live music, the Lookout Farmers Market has expanded tremendously since starting up just last year. Current Chattanooga locations include the Hamilton Place YMCA from 4 to 7 p.m. on Mondays (opening April 20), Audubon Acres from 4 to 7 p.m. on Tuesdays (opening April 21), St. Elmo near the Incline Railway from 4 to 7 p.m. on Fridays (opening April 24) and the Hixson North River YMCA from 10 a.m. to 1 p.m. on Saturdays (opening April 18).
—Main Street Farmers Market: The MSFM is held all winter long on Wednesdays from 4 to 5 p.m., but the new summer hours began just last week, expanding it until 6 p.m. But to help ring in the growing season, the market is holding its annual Spring-a-ma-jig during the market on April 22 to celebrate the seventh season on Chattanooga's Southside. Walter Bates will fire up the grill during the event, selling his own free-range chicken in half or whole form by the plate, as well as chicken tacos to enjoy along with side dishes made with local ingredients. Live music and activities for the kids are also planned.
Around Chattanooga: Georgia
—Battlefield Farmers Market: Held every Wednesday from 3 to 6 p.m. and again on Saturdays from 8 a.m. to noon, the Battlefield Farmers Market in Rock Spring, Georgia, is located right off Highway 27 at the Walker County Ag Center. The market will officially open May 2 this year.
—Downtown Dalton Saturday Market: Located in the Historic Dalton Freight Depot, this market will start up May 2 and run until August from 8 a.m. to noon every Saturday.
—Lookout Farmers Market (Georgia): The Georgia branch of the Lookout Farmers Market (and the original) takes place every Thursday outside the Lookout Mountain City Hall from 3 to 7 p.m., starting April 16.
—Trenton Farmers Market: Beginning May 2, this Saturday market runs from 9 a.m. to noon and is held right in the downtown Veterans Park Square near City Hall. One of the only markets on the southwestern side of Chattanooga, the Trenton market serves the tristate corner with producer-only goodies all summer long.
Around Chattanooga: Alabama
—Mentone Farmers Market: This small but year-round market is located in the scenic mountain region of Mentone, Alabama, right in the Mentone Inn Square. It runs from 10 a.m. to 1 p.m. every Saturday.
Around Chattanooga: Tennessee
—Athens Farmers Market: Located in downtown Athens near Veterans Park, this market doesn't begin until June 18 this year, but it runs until Oct. 30. It's held on Tuesdays and Thursdays from 4 to 6 p.m.
—Bradley County Farmers Market: This market is run by the Bradley County UT Extension Office and is open to the public three days every week: Tuesday, Thursday and Saturday from 7 a.m. to 2 p.m. The market is located right off Peerless Road Northwest, near the corner of Greenwood Trail.
—Cumberland Farmers Market: This market is unique in that it not only offers a physical location in Sewanee, but it is also an online market serving the Monteagle area. You can order online from Saturday to Monday each week and pick up on Tuesdays at the Sewanee Community Center.
—Ooltewah Farmers Market: Part of Ooltewah Nursery, this year-round market just kicked off its extended summer hours on April 2 to now go from 3 to 6 p.m. every Thursday. In addition to offering producer-only local food, the market also plays host to several special events and farm-related talks from local experts throughout the year.
—Signal Mountain Farmers Market: Another year-round Thursday market, the Signal Mountain market just extended its hours to 4 to 6 p.m. in the same location, right in Pruett's parking lot on Taft Highway.
—St. Alban's Hixson Market: This Saturday rain-or-shine market is entering its fifth year and just extended its hours to 9:30 a.m. to 12:30 p.m. for the summer season.
Shawn Schuster is a small-scale sustainable farmer in Alabama. He can be reached on Twitter or by email. The opinions expressed in this column belong solely to the author, not Nooga.com or its employees.
Updated @ 9:31 a.m. on 4/6/15 to correct the times for the Chattanooga Market: The Wednesday version of the market will be held from 3 to 6 p.m. this year, not 4 to 7 p.m., as originally reported.