From hand-roasted coffee to hydroponically raised tilapia, the new Winter Farmers Market, by Grow Oak Ridge LLC, is offering a brand new experience in Oak Ridge.
The market opens Saturday, December 3, bringing more than 40 local food and artisan vendors indoors for the first time ever in the Secret City. The market will be located in the gym at St. Mary’s School gym, which is at 323 Vermont Avenue in Oak Ridge. It is open every Saturday 10 a.m. to 1 p.m., December through February (closed December 24 and 31).
“I started planning this market last winter, when I realized several farmers come all winter long and stand out in the cold in Jackson Square,” said Rebecca Williams, founder of Grow Oak Ridge LLC and director of the market. “I asked them if they’d rather keep warm, and they said yes! The mission of Grow Oak Ridge is to support the local food system, be an incubator for small businesses, and create a community gathering spot in Oak Ridge.”
A portion of all vendor fees will be donated to the St. Joseph’s Food Bank at the church, which is donating the space.
“We have lots of new vendors to Oak Ridge, including two food trucks every week,” Williams said. “We hope folks will come to shop and stay for lunch, and we hope families take advantage of our free weekly Kids Club, which offers a craft or game for children at the market.”
The market will accept debit, credit and SNAP/EBT cards (food stamps) as well.
“It’s really important to me that we attract young families, and that we help everyone reap the benefits of locally grown foods,” Williams said. “Local produce is always freshly picked and hasn’t been sitting on a shelf for a week, which means it’s higher in nutrients than vegetables shipped from California. Plus, eating locally benefits our local economy.”
Customers who sign up for the weekly Grow News email, which lists weekly vendors and specials, are entered to win a drawing for $20 Market Dollars on Opening Day, December 3, at noon, said Williams. Sign up for emails at www.GrowOakRidge.org. The website also has a complete vendor list and product search feature.
“We have a wide range of products, such as hydroponic lettuce and tilapia, handmade soaps and skin care products, artwork, home roasted coffee and artisan crafts, antibiotic-free beef, pork and chicken, fresh eggs, artisan breads, locally grown produce, and more. Plenty of vegetables can be grown in the winter using hydroponics and hoop houses, which are like big greenhouses,” Williams said.
The market is being patterned after Nourish Knoxville’s successful farmers markets, Williams said. That nonprofit runs both the Market Square Farmers Market and the indoor Winter Market at Central United Methodist Church.
“Nourish Knoxville has been so helpful in answering my questions,” Williams said. “They let me come and observe their market last winter, and we’re doing things in much the same way. I tremendously respect the way they run their markets and their work to promote locally grow foods, and hope to bring that success and enthusiasm for local foods to Oak Ridge.”
All vendors who attend must make, bake, or grow the items they sell, said Williams. “We’re a producer-only market, which is a mark of quality among farmers’ markets. We hope everyone will come out and get to know your farmer, and where your food comes from.”
The Winter Farmers Market by Grow Oak Ridge LLC is a member of the Farmers Market Coalition.