The fifth season of the Winter Farmers’ Market begins indoors Saturday, December 5, from 9 a.m. to 12 p.m., and it is focused on safety during the COVID-19 pandemic, a press release said.
The market is open Saturdays through March (closed December 26), at St. Mary’s Catholic School at 323 Vermont Avenue in Oak Ridge.
All vendors and customers must wear masks, and vendors are spread apart for social distancing, the press release said.
New this year is a 100 percent touch-free curbside pickup program called Market-to-Go. Customers can shop farmers’ market products online during the week, and pick them up curbside on Saturday mornings, the press release said.
“We have been working all year to get ready for a safe, indoor market. Not many towns our size offer a Winter Farmers’ Market, much less one with more than 30 vendors and a convenient online store,” said Rebecca Williams, director of Grow Oak Ridge, the nonprofit organization that produces the market.
“We have more than 240 locally grown and handmade products for purchase on our website, with one convenient shopping cart checkout experience,” said Williams.
The online ordering window is Monday 12 p.m. through Thursday 12 p.m. for Saturday morning pickup. A $4 fee is added to help defray significant expenses. Customers get their first order free by using the code FREE1 at checkout. Visit www.GrowOakRidge.org/markets to order.
“Our staff has helped every vendor who wanted to participate upload their products to the store. Truly it’s been a herculean effort by our farmers, bakers, artisans, and staff. We do hope the public will give it a try,” said Williams.
Also new this year, the Power of Produce Club is now called Nourish Kids Club, and offers $5 in Produce Bucks for children ages 2 to 12, plus a take-home vegetables sample and fun activity. It is sponsored by various businesses during the year.
Because of the ongoing COVID-19 pandemic, there will be no eating or drinking inside the market, since masks must be worn at all times. Therefore, all hot food vendors will be outside for take-home orders only.
Market workshops such as a Mushroom Inoculation Station (in which participants make a shiitake mushroom log) will be offered in the early spring, as weather allows, the press release said.
Some vendors you will only see at the Winter Farmers’ Market include Possum Bottom Farms with gourmet mushrooms, Eco-Rich Farms with local tilapia, Croley Farmers, with micro-greens and honey, and Crout Farm with dried herbal teas, and later in the year, Half Ridge Farm with pork and chicken.
Returning summer favorites include Zavels Family Farm, Gooseberry Knoll Farm, Spring Oak Farm, Enlightenment Acres, Wilson Family Farm, Alpaca Junction and more.
“When you see a farmer selling in the winter, you know they’re trying to make a living year-round. Please come out and support our professional farmers in what has been a very challenging year.”
Williams said the Winter Farmers’ Market is producer-only, meaning all the vendors must make, bake, or grow what they sell within 150 miles of Oak Ridge.
“We always say that local food is safe food. Locally grown food has been touched by fewer people, and has traveled a fraction of the distance of your typical grocery store products,” said Williams. “Our growers maintain food safety practices all year long, and are committed to providing the highest quality products to their customers.”
Winter products available include cool season produce like kale, spinach, lettuce, gourmet mushrooms, and more, as well as free-range eggs, local honey, cheese, pasture-raised meats, tilapia, artisan breads, pastries, and unique handmade bath and body products, and gifts.
The Winter Farmers’ Market accepts SNAP/EBT benefits and doubles benefits up to $20 per day for fruits and vegetables in a program called Double Up Food Bucks.
The market is produced by Grow Oak Ridge and sponsored by St. Mary’s and local businesses and organizations, including Nourish Knoxville, The Ferrell Shop, Dr. John Soldano, and the Anderson County Health Department.
For information on how to volunteer, offer a market workshop, sponsor the children’s program, or order online, visit www.GrowOakRidge.org.