I’m a consummate Yankee lady, New York City born-and-bred. So when I moved to Chattanooga, Tenn. to take a newspaper job in 2008, suffice to say people were surprised. I thought I knew what to expect, and yet I had no idea. My nearly five years there were an education, to say the least. But one thing I didn’t anticipate was Chattanoogans’ devotion to local, sustainably grown food.
From restaurants specializing in ingredients produced by neighbors to the Tennessee Aquarium launching a sustainable seafood awareness program along with celebrity chef Alton Brown, Chattanooga boasts a devoted faction of people who like to eat close to home.
I visited recently, to see old friends and meet a new baby. Top on the list of places to visit: The Chattanooga Market.
A weekly tradition from April to November, the Chattanooga Market is the region’s largest producer-only marketplace. Each week boasts a theme, from Oktoberfest to Big Band Day to Blueberry Festival (complete with ;9jHfVhpC6uJQMOJnYs406cqbzhsj;7J31tfkllQVNlJC2SGfZRctZZs6ShZlgVSU06SbFzV7DPXGpmOVRAM4ezHgkSeh6jn~;FeZFXF0qy8nmVqmuk8Qs3axrMIonOoETOV0aHW~;ch5GypelF6qIJyldywB4kkSTXKXJmOR4qx2akaLIAsZc5cxL9l7Gwj~;jpyblxvf5b40axvOzT~_y~_gT37LGq7qXmiiSXn2xqak3vb9UH9bLrDg~~.bps.a.10153483086378291.1073741863.8549058290/10153483088028291/?type=3&theater">pie eating contest). The Market also offers tables to local charities and hosts fundraisers and awareness-raising events.
I spent nearly every Sunday morning at the Chattanooga Market, browsing tables of fresh produce, baked goods and colorful crafts. It’s where I first braved oddly shaped vegetables with funny names, like kohlrabi and rutabaga. Where I discovered the wonder of sweet Sungold tomatoes in summer and crisp Arkansas black apples in autumn. It’s where I learned that freshly gathered farm eggs beat the pants off the ones in the grocery store. And it’s where I bought the most obscene looking sweet potato I’ve ever set eyes on in my life. Wait for it, there’s a picture.
Holly Leber is a writer and editor based in Silver Spring, Md. When she’s not hunting for stories, she can be found going on produce-related shopping sprees, making jam, wine tasting and reading 1930’s Nancy Drew. Holly is the editorial director of The Daily Do Good.