Spring Cleaning Brings Changes at the Nashville Farmers' Market

The Nashville Farmers' Market has been a provider of a wide variety of produce and other agricultural products for years, but this spring when it reopens under the influence of new leadership and new, more stringent guidelines, you may not find as much there as you did before. But wait…that is not necessarily a bad thing.

The Nashville Farmers' Market sustained considerable damage during the 2010 flood and has struggled to meet repair needs and financial obligations ever since. Many of the local and regional vendors who were staples at the market before the flood did not return after it was revived. Revenues suffered and financial goals failed to be met time and time again. The farmers' market found itself in need of operating cash and sometimes needed to lean on government funding to stay afloat.

“The situation was not rosy,” new Nashville Farmers' Market Executive Director Tasha Kennard said. “The organization was still in flux and there were lots of ongoing financial struggles.”

In addition to the financial woes facing the market, the reality of the day-to-day business going on there drifted away from the main mission of the organization. “It was an anything goes farmers' market,” Kennard said. “By that, I mean you could sell anything you wanted there. It didnâ€TMt matter whether you grew it or where it came from.”

The Nashville Farmers' Market began a complete shuffle as 2013 transitioned to 2014 in an attempt to get back to the business of promoting the growers who want to provide goods for the Nashville community. With a new board of directors assembled, Kennard was brought on to spearhead the efforts. What resulted was the new Nashville Farmers' Market that will debut April 1, 2015, as a true “producer-only” farmers' market with a set of merchant standards by which all sellers will have to abide.

“The new standards mean the merchants have to grow it, raise it or otherwise produce it to be able to sell it,” Kennard said. “Each vendor will be required to sell 90% of their own products. We will allow 10% of other products to provide some variety. So, if you want to sell eggs but you donâ€TMt raise hens, you can sell your neighborâ€TMs eggs if they are no more than 10% of your offerings. And that neighbor will have to register with us. We must know where every single product is from.”

In addition, the new merchant standards allow for auditing from vendor to vendor. This is a way to police one another to ensure everyone is playing by the rules. Admittedly, Kennard says, this new set of standards will eliminate some participation and will cut back on some variety of products available at the market. But the director feels good overall about the new direction they are headed.

“You may not see the variety of products youâ€TMve seen here in the past,” Kennard said. “But there will be no resellers and our mission is to provide a place for growers to bring their own products to sell. And remember, this doesnâ€TMt mean itâ€TMs all local. We will take growers from anywhere as long as they are the ones growing it. So weâ€TMll have local as well as regional products. This will help add some variety to the market.”

After one week of taking applications in January, the Nashville Farmers' Market filled up 60% of its Friday thru Sunday slots with qualified growers, so the idea that the amount of products available at the reinvented market will decrease does not appear to be an issue.

Complete guideline details are available through the organizationâ€TMs website at http://nashvillefarmersmarket.org. The Nashville Farmers' Market is located at 900 Rosa Parks Boulevard near downtown Nashville.

By Lee Morgan