By Grace Biggs, Impact Manager
With market season well underway, the Growing Together garden is a busy, vibrant place, full of life and movement. Farmers gather to harvest, wash, and pack their crops from their individual plots three times a week, often with the support of their families. Each farmer is autonomous, planting the crops they want, working according to their own schedule, and setting their own financial goals for the food they sell. But there’s also a lot that the farmers share.
“Being on a shared space has so many benefits,” explains Sally, the Growing Together Market Manager. “There’s the immense learning opportunity of seeing what other farmers are doing and learning from your peers. And there’s also a benefit in having shared market outlets.”
Marketing and selling to new customers is a huge challenge for any farmer. This season, the Growing Together program is connecting farmers with a wide variety of market outlets: the Richland Park Farmer’s Market on Saturdays, wholesale listings on Nashville Grown and Locally Grown, direct sales to area restaurants, a 20-customer fall CSA, and (new this year) weekly farm stands at TNFP’s headquarters on Wednesday evenings.
“The Growing Together farmers offer something unique,” says Sally. As a customer, you can expect to see many vegetables you are familiar with here in the South, like tomatoes and salad greens. You can also expect to taste traditional crops from farmers' home countries of Burma and Bhutan, such as bitter gourd, daikon radishes, and mustard greens.
I see this firsthand while sitting with Sally at the farm stand in the Nations on a Wednesday night, as a return customer walks up to the booth, bags in hand. They chat about their weeks, and Sally begins to point out what’s for sale. “Here’s arugula, and this is a leafy chinese cabbage. It’s great raw, similar to lettuce, but you can also cook it.” Customers come and go throughout the evening, taking their pick of veggies ranging from yellow squash to shisoto peppers, often leaving with at least one food they hadn’t heard of before that day.
This willingness to try something new has also been true of many of our chef friends, including City House, TKO, Two Ten Jack and Green Pheasant. In addition to ordering what they know they need for their menus, they’ve been excited to incorporate whatever the farmers have available, including the farmers’ traditional foods.
As summer winds down, farmers are gearing up for their fall CSA. “There’s going to be such a huge difference in the CSA this year. The transition from summer to fall can be a hard time in the season to have produce ready to harvest, especially if you’re trying to offer a diversity, but after learning so much in the first year, farmers are coming in more prepared, especially for the first few weeks of the CSA.” The 2019 Fall CSA is sold out, but you can sign up for the Growing Together email newsletter to stay in the loop on next year’s CSA here.
Ready to try some tastes of Burma and Bhutan for yourself?
For the month of September, Growing Together produce will be featured by MEEL, a local online marketplace and farm stand, including a special menu of Dinner Kits inspired by traditional Bhutanese and Burmese dishes such as Komatsuna with Creamy Heirloom Polenta and Ema Datshi with Bhutanese Red Rice and Suja.
These Growing Together MEEL Kits and a Growing Together Farmstand Box will go “live” on Monday, August 26th, available for delivery beginning September 3rd. Menus will be available at this link. Use the promo code “GROW” and they’ll donate 10% of your purchase to The Nashville Food Project!
Also, through the end of October, you can visit the Growing Together farmers at the Richland Park Farmers’ Market every Saturday 9 am to 12:30 pm, and at our headquarters in the Nations (5904 California Avenue) every Wednesday 5 pm to 7 pm.