The Signal Mountain community now has more convenient access to fresh produce with the newly established farmer's market at Bachman Community Center, held Thursdays from 4 to 6 p.m. beginning June 2.
"I wanted to support the local food movement and promote healthy choices," said Alison Hoffmann, who approached the Bachman Board about starting a farmer's market at the center and now serves as market manager.
She said the market gives local residents the opportunity to not only purchase the freshest and best-tasting produce, but also to live a more sustainable lifestyle by purchasing it near where it was produced. The average distance an item of food travels to reach the grocery store is 1,500 miles, according to Hoffmann.
Bachman Community Center is at 2815 Anderson Pike. For questions or to participate in the Bachman market, contact market manager Alison Hoffmann at 645-1642 or email@example.com.
The average distance to Bachman from participating farms, which include Signal Mountain Farm, Williams Island Farm, Walden's Peak Farm and Walden Farm, is 4.9 miles. With a 19-mile trek from Brainerd, Buffalo Brad's Jerky drives the farthest of any of the vendors.
Unlike most local markets, vendors at Bachman are not required to pay for their booths. The only rule is that vendors must produce their own products.
"They can't go to Atlanta and buy things and come up and sell them here," explained Hoffmann.
Thursday was chosen as market day to fit the schedules of the vendors, most of whom are already committed to other markets the rest of the week. The hours correspond with those of the Bachman Bargain Barn, so the building will be open and patrons and vendors will have the option to use the rest rooms.
"We're open to changing the time for people who have to work," said Hoffmann. "If there are a lot of people who can't make it because it closes too early, we will do everything we can to accommodate them."
The market also helps provide fresh and healthy options for those who might otherwise go hungry, as the Chattanooga Area Food Bank picks up any leftovers at the conclusion of each week's market.
Hoffmann said she expects the weekly market to end in October and begin again the next spring.
Signal Mountain's Walden Farm, a pioneer in the local food scene, is back to supplying the community with fresh produce after a 10-year hiatus. The farm is one of the participants in the new weekly farmer's market at Bachman, held Thursdays beginning June 2 from 4 to 6 p.m.
The farm was the first in the region in 1991 to offer a Community Supported Agriculture program, in which members pay farmers a fee up front for "shares" consisting of boxes of fresh produce each week during farming season.
Owner Alex McGregor was forced to quit farming in 2000 due to fibromyalgia and other complications. His wife Leslie started growing food again about two years ago just for the family, and this past year McGregor was feeling well enough to get back in the garden.
The McGregors are keeping their operation on a smaller scale than in the past, opting to avoid the stress of providing enough food to supply shares for the 30 families in the farm's CSA.
"That's a young man's game," said McGregor of CSAs.
He has influenced the local food movement through his many apprentices and participants in his USDA-funded workshops he held at the farm, including Crabtree Farms founder Will Bailey, Tom O'Neal of Signal Mountain Farm and Sequatchie Cove Farm's Nathan Arnold.
He said a UGA study found his growing methods allowed him to produce eight times more than the average farmer.
"It took two acres for other farmers to grow what I can grow in one fourth of an acre," said McGregor, who credited his success to knowledge of soil science and an understanding of plants and soil life he gained through the Ohio University botany department.
The McGregors started back selling the surplus from their garden at the Brainerd market last year, and have since joined in a collaborative effort with fellow farmer Beth Austin to expand what they sell.
McGregor said among the reasons for consuming locally grown food is the farmer's criteria for selecting a particular variety of vegetable.
"Farmers eat what they grow, so we're trying to grow what we want to eat," said McGregor, who can personally tell the consumer his food is tasty and safe to eat, because he has been in control of its processing and has sampled his goods along the way. "With a corporate operation, profit is the motivation."
Health-conscious consumers should try to buy their food as fresh as possible, as he said the vitamin content in food is depleted over time by as much as one half.
Farmers can also be held accountable for the quality level of their produce.
"At the grocery store, you have no one to complain to if your green beans are tough and tasteless," said McGregor, who will have salad greens, onions, radishes and other springtime veggies for sale at the Bachman market, as well as culinary herbs.
Available in July is Japanese egg plant, a special variety with very tender skin which takes the hassle out of cooking with eggplant, as well as other summer vegetables.