August 1-7 is Official National Farmers' Market Week in North America. But anytime is a good time to visit your local Farmers' Market. According to the U.S. Department of Agriculture, there are many benefits to Farmers' Markets, which include:
- Promote child health & reduce childhood obesity by increasing their access to fresh fruits & veggies
- Support the sustainability & increase the marketability of small family farms
- Support local anti-hunger initiatives through donations of unsold food to programs for those in need
- Develop regional foodsheds which benefit local farmers, consumers, & the environment
- Offer affordable, convenient, local products which are good for your health
Maryville has two Farmers' Markets. Founder's Square is open every Saturday from 9 am to noon, and the other market is located at Anderson Lumber Company, every Wednesday from 4-7 pm. Offerings include fresh tomatoes, corn, okra, watermelon, squash, potatoes, eggs, cantaloupes, lettuce, cheeses, breads, pastries, fresh flowers,herbs, plants, and more. The markets operate through November.
The special events for Saturday, August 7, will feature Harvesting Wellness with Donna Dixon of Smoky Mountain Wellness and Gritte Fritter on stage.
The Knoxville Farmers Market operates on Tuesdays and Fridays, 3-6 pm at the Laurel Church of Christ at the corner of 3457 Kingston Pike and Cherokee Boulevard.
Historic Jackson Square on Broadway, is home to the Oak Ridge Farmers Market on Wednesdays, 3-6 pm and Saturdays, 8 am-noon, rain or shine.
The USDA started recognizing National Farmers Market Week in 2000, and since then the number of markets listed in the USDA official directory of farmers markets has swelled over 170%. Hospitals are even getting on the farmers market wagon, by developing holistic programs to integrate farmers markets into their patient and employee wellness plans.
Federal and state nutrition assistance programs are also using farmers markets to invest in healthy lifestyles across all income levels. Now, more than 3,300 markets (including here in Tennessee) accept Women, Infant and Children (WIC) Farmers Market Nutrition Program vouchers and more than 3,100 markets participate in the Senior Farmers Market Nutrition Program (SFMNP). Many Farmers' Markets also accept Food Stamps.
Supporting your local farmers' market is good for your health, your community, your local economy, and the environment. Shopping at the farmers' market eliminates the high-priced "middle men" of mass market retailing. Farmers use minimal packaging (most shoppers bring their own), and much of their product is organic.
And besides, it's a great way to do some real live social networking. Here in east Tennessee we love to "chew-the-fat". And everybody knows that homegrown food just tastes better.