Down on the farm in downtown Nashville
By: Taylor Andrews
He was an older man, 60 to 70 years old. His overworked and calloused hands were grasping his homemade apple pie.
“These pies were made with the finest and freshest apples of all Tennessee,” he said to his browsing customer, who pulled out his wallet and exchanged his $12 for this divine creation. The creator is Paul Miller, a vendor at the Nashville Farmers’ Market (NFM).
The Farmers’ Market has been around since the early 1800s, but at its current location since the mid-1950s. The market now spreads from Harrison to Jackson Streets on Rosa L. Parks Boulevard, only a short drive from downtown and with convenient hours of 8 a.m. to 9 p.m. every day.
“The best time to go is on weekends and in the morning,” said consistent NFM customer Amanda Thompson.
Once approaching NFM, there are two parking lots conveniently located only a short walking distance from the market, which include handicap accessibility.
The vendors and their products occupy the two side-by-side football-field-sized farm sheds. These vendors include Old School Farm, Bells Bend Farms, Walnut Hills, Smiley’s Farm and others. In the event of rain or storm, both sheds are covered.
A central enclosed building is home to an assortment of food options including a dessert bakery, a Chinese fast-line, a Cajun area and more.
With fall in the air outside, the sight of orange, white, green and brown pumpkins draw attention immediately approaching the market. The smell of ripe, fresh produce and green vegetables create the aroma of healthy and great-quality options. Friendly greetings and smiles are exchanged between vendors and their customers.
To the east sits Gardens of Babylon underneath a perky pink tent filled with anything essential for one’s garden: lettuce, leeks, kale, cauliflower, broccoli, asparagus, rhubarb, cardoon, laurel, shrubs, ground covers, sun annuals, flowers and more — perfect for the DIY garden extraordinaire or the average-Joe interested in improving his or her yard.
Under the first shed of vendors, an assortment of fruits and vegetables are present, each divided among individual farms and tables. Specific vendors have their own specialties of foods.
The Local Table’s artistry includes a rainbow of peppers: Sweet Yummy Mix, Sweet Mini Bell, Hot Jalapeno Pepper, Hot Cayenne Pepper, Poblano and Hot Banana — all ranging in size, color and shape.
As a cheese lover, I was immediately drawn to Farm Country Cheese House’s table amid the exploring. Gorgonzola, gouda, pepper jack, provolone and bleu cheeses covered the table, aside toothpicks for samplings.
Beth Rodgers let me sample her “deliciously ripe peaches,” where I concluded that her statement was not far from the truth.
After she sold me my 5-for-$5, she said “Make sure not to put them in a brown bag, it really doesn’t do much. That’s all grocery stores say and it’s a load of crap.”
Among other options, the typical homegrown vegetables and fruits were present in each of the sheds. The cut green beans, hand-picked corn on the cob, and fresh tomatoes seemed to be where the crowd flocked.
The U-shaped table toward the end of the shed had many of the younger kids’ attention, and probably the adults too, had they admitted it
An abundance of sweet breads, pies, cookies and muffins were spread all over the table.
Behind them stood an Amish family, the men dressed in white dress shirts with black coveralls and the women dressed in long dresses with seer bonnets.
The older gentleman of the family, Paul Miller, said, “My family has been selling to the market for as long as I can remember. We have to really prepare for it and cook sufficient amounts of our baked goods in order to meet the demands of our buyers.”
Perhaps he WAS telling the truth about the “finest and freshest apples of all Tennessee” in his pies. In a quest to test his opinion, I had to take a bite myself. Overcome by the indulging yet rich flavoring of the crisp apple pie, my sweet tooth call had been answered and quenched, all within the same solitary moment.
By God, if this apple pie kills me, it was worth it.
The Nashville Farmers’ Market is at 900 Rosa L Parks Blvd., Nashville, 37208. Hours are Monday through Sunday hours: 8 a.m. to 6 p.m.