Phillip Ottinger takes great pride in the assortment of apples, berries, pumpkins and other produce he grows at Buffalo Trail Orchard in Greeneville.
In fact, he can even get a little picky on where he takes his fruits and vegetables for selling. He participates in a few area farmers markets from time to time, but on the big market day of the week, he makes sure he is at the Jonesborough Farmers Market and the Boone Street Market.
“I’m always at Jonesborough on Saturdays,” Ottinger says. “It’s been a real good outlet for me. The support from the community, the volunteers and the people who run it really make it a good place. I’ve been very pleased.”
Ottinger, whose Buffalo Trail Orchard is a fifth-generation Tennessee Century Farm, has been a vendor at the Jonesborough Farmers Market since 2010, about two years after the facility began operations. He has been selling at the newer Boone Street Market since it opened in October 2014.
“Even during the farmers market season, I’ll have product I also can sell through Boone Street, depending on their needs,” Ottinger says. “Sometimes you have to wait your turn because there are other vendors with the same products, but they always try to be fair to each vendor.”
Meeting a Year-Round Demand
Boone Street Market brings added value to area farmers and ranchers through a variety of ways. Operated by Jonesborough Locally Grown, it opened as an expansion to the then 6-year-old Jonesborough Farmers Market.
“We felt like there was a year-round demand for local food, and so the board of directors got together and saw this empty gas station and thought that would make a great local food store,” says Karen Childress, executive director of Jonesborough Locally Grown.
Childress and others visited a similar facility in Huntington, West Virginia, to get an idea on how to get started with a concept and learn the details for operating a store. Boone Street Market is a fully equipped retail food space with a display freezer and walk-in cooler, and includes a commercial kitchen that producers can rent to create value-added products. This is when a product is physically changed to add value, such as making strawberries into jam. Store staff are available to help producers and consumers learn about growing, harvesting and preparing local foods.
The market is a nonprofit that depends on the help from many volunteers who keep overhead costs down. And they’re invaluable, according to Childress.
“We definitely have a flow of regular volunteers who help out every single day at the store, either running the cash register or making curtains or cooking food in the kitchen,” she says.
Farm to Table
Jonesborough Locally Grown is also known for its annual Farm to Table Dinner, its biggest fundraiser. Area producers provide the fresh and local food for this large banquet held in front of the Washington County courthouse in downtown Jonesborough. Another fundraiser is the 100-mile dinner, a series of events held periodically that feature a guest chef who creates a menu based on what’s in season.
“My goal when it first opened was to make it a model other communities could follow and that it would pay for itself,” Childress says. “I’m completely optimistic.”