Farmers markets are becoming more popular and plentiful these days, especially here in Carter County. They support local farmers, artists and business development while also bringing locals together and attracting out-of-town visitors.
Within the past few years, the county has seen two markets start up. Roan Mountain kicked off their market in 2014 and the revitalization of the Downtown Elizabethton Farmers Market took place in 2017. I was excited to travel to both Roan Mountain and Downtown Elizabethton farmers markets to visit some of the vendors and check out the atmosphere.
In Roan Mountain, I met Virginia Mary Tackett, Tim Stanley and Andy McBroom. All of these vendors were incredibly welcoming and eager to talk about their products.
Tackett has been crocheting products for about 45 years, but just recently started selling in farmers markets. This is her third year and she has sold goods in Johnson City and Elizabethton markets as well. There is always a mix of local people and tourists who want to explore what is available in this area, she said. She said the draw for customers to go to the markets is the opportunity to ask how the product was made. For example, Virginia uses a certain starch on her doilies and she can tell you where to order it. An insight such as this is just one of the many advantages of shopping locally, she said.
Stanley was with the Smoky Mountain Bakers. Ingredients used to make the products were locally grown and are affordable. There are vegetarian options as well as sandwiches and pizza. Most of the business they receive is also from tourists, he said.
McBroom is in the business of beehives and free-range eggs with Wild by Nature. He has been doing it for about three years. This year was his first year selling in a farmer’s market Hopefully, he will start producing enough to branch out to some stores and possibly other farmer’s markets, he said. His customers are a mix of locals and visitors, but he gets a lot of returning customers throughout the season.
In Elizabethton, I stopped to talk with Market Manager Donica Krebs, Sarah Williams and Emily Gorby at the Downtown Elizabethton Farmers Market located on East F Street across from the Elizabethton Police Department.
Krebs is a local farmer and also the founder of the market, which she said aims to help support her fellow farmers and agriculture overall. Everyone at this farmers market focuses on doing everything as organically as possible, which reduces waste. Krebs said it gives people a reason to keep farming, which will hopefully increase interest in the art of farming. It also benefits the community because it offers fresh produce at a good price. While some tourists do visit the market, Krebs said it mostly survives on the locals.
My first stop at the market was to meet Williams with Riverbend Farms. She had a truck bed full of pumpkins. This was her first time at a farmers market, but she plans on branching out in the future. The importance of growing locally is knowing what happens to the plants during production and harvest, she said.
My next stop was to see Gorby, who had brought a booth full of backyard grown produce. Her bounty included eggs, vegetables and honey. She started growing to embrace a healthier lifestyle for her family and to teach her children how to grow food for themselves. This is her first year of selling in a farmer’s market but she has been growing produce for about eight years. The produce she sells has a nice fresh taste and you can definitely tell the difference.
While in town, be sure to check out local farmers markets in Elizabethton or Roan Mountain. The prices are affordable and it helps support local businesses. I would definitely recommend talking to the sellers, they are very friendly and will tell you all you need to know about their unique products. It’s like walking into one big family gathered to support each other. It’s a great atmosphere and it encourages a healthier lifestyle. I walked away from this experience with a goal to try to always shop locally.