Do farmers markets mean Bradley County's still rural?

Do farmers markets mean Bradley County's still rural?

June 9th, 2012 by Randall Higgins in News

Linda Swift of Owl Hollow Farm in McDonald, Tenn., was one of the vendors at the opening day for Cleveland's Five Points Market. Bradley County is becoming more urban, she said, but there's a lot of farmland out there and young people who want to become farmers.

Photo by Randall Higgins /Times Free Press.

POLL: Is Bradley County still rural?

CLEVELAND, Tenn. -- With Volkswagen, Wacker Chemical, Olin, Amazon and Whirlpool facilities, can Bradley County still be called rural?

Thousands of manufacturing jobs have been created or saved here the past two years.

Some vendors present for the opening day of Five Points Market, one of three farmers markets now operating in Cleveland, have mixed opinions.

Leroy Bowman retired as a heavy equipment operator and turned to the soil three years ago.

"I created myself another job," he said.

He believes Bradley County is becoming more suburban.

"Moms and dads pass away. The kids sell the farm, and somebody makes a subdivision out of it," Bowman said.

That's happening across the county in what were fields and pastures, he said.

Sara Keel and Aaron Basescu were at Five Points opening day representing the Greenway Table, a community teaching garden.

"I think a lot of our folks work in factories," Keel said. "But I think we are all trying to do better as far as [consuming] locally grown [products]."

The Bradley County North farmers market, on Urbane Road, opened several weeks ago.

Both those markets may feature nonlocal produce as well as that from area growers, according to the UT Extension Service.

A third market, the traditional county market on Peerless Road, is for local growers and gardeners only, according to the Extension Service office here. The Peerless Road site, and the public cannery, officially is open on June 23.

Karen Stofer and Brenda Andrews operate Hydroponic Farm on Lower River Road in Georgetown. They sell hydroponic towers, in which a motor sends a column of water and added nutrients up a tower that has openings for plants. A tower can grow 20 or 28 plants, depending on the size, they said.

"For people who live in an apartment, if you get six hours of sun and it's level, you can grow all this stuff," Stofer said.

Linda Swift, from Owl Hollow Farm in McDonald, sees a renewed interest by young people in growing locally and organically.

"Compared to Hamilton County, we are still rural," Swift said.

According to the 2007 Census of Agriculture, taken every five years by the U.S. Department of Agriculture, Bradley County had 959 farms with more than 94,000 acres devoted to farmland. The average farm size was 103 acres. That was a slight decrease from the previous farm census in size but a slight increase in the number of farms.

The census defines a farm as any place with $1,000 or more of agricultural produce sold during the year.

The next USDA Census of Agriculture comes next December.

"There's still a lot of farms here," said Kaye Smith at the Bradley UT Extension Service.