Tasha Kennard has fond memories of shopping at the Nashville Farmers’ Market with her grandmother when she was a child.
“My grandmother would drive through the farmers market and holler out the window, ‘I need a pound of this and a bushel of that,’ and the vendors would deliver it to her car,” Kennard recalls.
Back then, Kennard had no idea she would one day work as executive director of the Nashville Farmers’ Market, a position she took in 2013 with the goal of making it more sustainable and relevant in the 21st century. The market has been a gathering place for consumers to connect with the farmers growing their food since the mid-1800s. It continues to serve that purpose today with 80 to 120 vendors operating on weekends. It’s also a bustling lunchtime destination during the week. The market’s international food hall serves a melting pot of flavors, from French crepes and gyro sandwiches to Jamaican jerk chicken and Neapolitan wood-fired pizzas.
“We are definitely a unique place,” Kennard says. “I’m a strong believer that food brings people together, and it certainly does at the Nashville Farmers’ Market. We’re very diverse – you will meet people from all over the world doing business and shopping here.”
The market prides itself on its low-cost entry program for farmers, restaurateurs and crafters, and being a “welcoming place for everyone.”
Zero Waste 2020
In April 2018, the Nashville Farmers’ Market launched a Zero Waste 2020 initiative, which aims to divert 90% of its waste from the landfill by Dec. 31, 2020. The market is partnering with The Compost Company to achieve the goal.
“We had been longing to service the Nashville Farmers’ Market for quite some time,” says Clay Ezell, co-owner of The Compost Company. “It’s a jewel in the crown of Nashville and a place that represents local agriculture, food and sustainable practices, just like we do. The farmers market was a really sensible place to get a composting program going.”
Beginning in April 2018, the market began offering composting services to its vendors and restaurateurs. One year later, they rolled out recycling and composting services throughout the entire property with a new waste collection zone and waste-sorting stations for consumers.
“Each three-compartment sorting station has a list of product types that should be thrown into each compartment to help people understand what’s compostable, what’s recyclable and what goes into the landfill,” Kennard explains.
See more: How to Compost
In the first year of the program, the market diverted 81,000 pounds of waste to compost. They are on track to divert 250,000 pounds to compost in the second year, between April 2019 and April 2020. The Compost Company collects waste from the market at regular intervals and takes it to a facility in Ashland City, where they process it into compost for landscapers, farmers and gardeners.
“We jokingly refer to ourselves as hippie garbagemen,” Ezell says. “The difference between us and public-service waste collectors is what we do with the waste, turning it into the best natural fertilizer on Earth.”
New Entrance & Public Art
The Zero Waste 2020 initiative isn’t the only new development at the Nashville Farmers’ Market. In November 2019, the market opened its freshly renovated entrance that leads to the Tennessee State Museum next door, which opened just one month prior.
Within the updated entrance to the market, visitors will notice a variety of new public art that welcomes them to the space, including two murals and a larger-than-life basket of turnip greens hanging from the rafters of the atrium.
With all the recent improvements, the market bustles with a renewed energy that is capturing the attention of locals and tourists alike.
“Busloads of tourists show up nearly every day because the farmers market has a reputation as a place to get a taste of Nashville and experience how diverse our culture is,” Kennard says. “Locals appreciate that they can dart inside and get a bite to eat, shop around, get exposed to public art, or come to our Night Market and listen to live music.”
The Nashville Farmers’ Market is open daily year round. For hours and information about special events, visit nashvillefarmersmarket.org. The free Pick Tennessee mobile app will help you find a farmers market near you. You can also search online at picktnproducts.org.