Finding Local Tennessee Products

The thought of eating locally might conjure images of cozy mom-and-pop diners where the owners are always present and the menu is laden with comfort food. However, recent years have seen the dramatic rise in a different kind of local eating.

The local food movement is an emerging trend in consumer demand and relates not only to the distance between producers and consumers but also to the manufacturing characteristics of the producer. Food produced locally is not only grown on smaller farms but also marketed within 400 miles of where it was harvested.

The demand for locally grown foods is driven by an increase in conscientious consumers who are in search of more than just a product. Waynesboro resident Gayle Tanner, along with her husband, Jim, owns and operates Bonnie Blue Farm, a goat dairy. The Tanners, licensed farmstead goat-cheese producers since 2006, know consumers have high expectations for their food dollars.

“Many consumers want to be sure they are spending their money in the local community, supporting local farmers and getting fresher, healthier food,” Tanner says. “As more shoppers want local food, farmers are finding ways to extend the growing season, and farmers markets are starting earlier in the spring or go year round. Many people have moved to Tennessee bringing their food traditions and customs, thus expanding the variety and ethnic diversity for all consumers. Chefs have added to the movement by seeking out local products, visiting farms and making farmers their friends.”

Two avenues for locally grown foods are farmers markets and agritourism venues. Whereas producers bring food to the former, the latter provides consumers with a chance to visit farms and oftentimes be a part of the production process. In addition to thousands of locally grown products, Tennessee’s hundreds of agritourism ventures offer consumers a fun, firsthand account of agriculture.

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Connecting local producers and agritourism venues to consumers is Pick Tennessee Products, a program offered through the Tennessee Department of Agriculture (TDA).

Pick Tennessee Products was around before eating local became the trend, so we’ve been, and continue to be, a great source for consumers,” says Pamela Bartholomew, agritourism and farmers markets marketing specialist with TDA.

Twenty-five years ago, the Pick Tennessee Products program was created to promote farmers and grocery stores. Today, with the same mission in mind, the program offers free marketing for farmers through its website.

More than 1,600 individual farmers use the website and program to sell some 6,000 items, including fruits and vegetables, grains and organic options. Specialty products, such as farm-direct beef – grass-fed beef produced without the use of antibiotics – are also marketed through the program. The program also includes many value-added products, which are the result of taking a raw product grown by the farmer and modifying it, such as flour, preserves or honey.

The Pick Tennessee Products program bridges the gap between production and consumption and advocates eating locally by borrowing from the mom-and-pop diner philosophy, which Gayle Tanner sums up: “Personal relationships lead to an understanding of the time, effort and expense required to produce our cheese.”

Sauces from Tennessee Gourmet in Mt. Juliet

Tennessee Gourmet

Based in Mt. Juliet, this company specializes in gourmet sauces, pepper jellies and salad dressings.

Knoxville's White Lily Flour

White Lily

Considered by many as the best flour for biscuits, White Lily was continuously milled in Knoxville for 125 years. Today, its headquarters is in Memphis.

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Bonnie Blue Goat Cheese in Waynseboro, Tennessee

Bonnie Blue Goat Cheese

Located in Waynesboro, Bonnie Blue Farm uses only the milk from its Nubian and Saanen dairy goats to make hand-crafted goat cheese.

Nashville Toffee Company

Nashville Toffee Company

This Nashville-based toffee treat was first produced in 2003, using a grandmother’s famous recipe.

Allegro Marinade in Paris, Tennessee

Allegro Marinade

These marinades were created in 1955 by a Paris, Tenn., family who wanted to make inexpensive meats more desirable.

Nonna's Gourmet Foods in Nashville, Tennessee

Nonna’s Gourmet Foods

These are the same delicious Italian sauces served in the Cafe Nonna restaurant in Nashville.

Tennessee Chow-Chow is made by Sugar Plum Foods in White House, Tennessee

Tennessee Chow-Chow

A Southern staple, this relish is made in small batches by Sugar Plum Foods in White House, Tenn. The company also sells pickles
and apple butter.

1 COMMENT

  1. Above picture of Sugar Plum Foods – Tennessee Mild Chow Chow relish. I live in Florida and miss my Tennessee food! I like to buy a case from down here so have been calling the maker and leaves messages for well over 2 1/2 YEARS!!! Yes years!!! Mad game of phone tag and now their mailbox is full. Due to restrictions of selling across state lines, I just want help, outside of driving to TN, in getting this stuff. Again, I want to purchase a case of this stuff and be able to say, “Even Floridians support the Tennessee economy”! This is my last ditch effort so advise is even appreciated since my mother also wants our chili from TN. She will wait though…LOL

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