Farmers market managers, representatives, and vendors from across Northeast Tennessee and Southwest Virginia came together in Kingsport for a full day of relationship building and learning at the first ever Appalachian Farmers Market Association (AFMA) Retreat.  There were 35 in attendance, some coming from as far afield as Independence, VA. This proved to be the largest gathering of farmers market managers and representatives in the Central Appalachian Highlands Region of NE TN and SW VA.  A farm to table lunch, sourced from 6 regional producers was catered by Serenity Knoll Farm of Jonesborough,TN.

The AFMA Retreat was a project of Farm Fresh Appalachia, a task force of regional organizations formed to better support our area’s farmers and farmers markets, funded through a USDA Farmers Market Promotion Program grant.

The Farm Fresh Appalachia team would like to extend a special thanks to all those in attendance for your dedication to our regional food system. Thank you to the folks with the Kingsport Renaissance Arts Center for the donation of space.

Presenters and sessions included the following:

Molly Nicholie, Local Food Campaign Program Director with ASAP (Appalachian Sustainable Agriculture Project), of Ashville, NC, brought us two hour-long sessions on Direct Marketing Strategies and Improving Sales at Farmers Markets. More information about ASAP and the good work they’re doing can be found HERE.

MIke Brown, Consumer & Industrial Services Coordinator with the TN Department of Agriculture (TDA), is Tennessee’s leading expert of Farmers Market Food and Manufacturing Regulations. Covered in this one hour session, Regulatory Road Map for TN Food Manufacturers, were the updated 2019 Farmers Market Food Regulations, along with a general overview of food safety requirements for vendors. This also gave TN markets a chance to ask important regulatory questions. More information about the TDA’s Consumer & Industrial Services Dept. can be found HERE.

Dr. Kim Hutchinson, Executive Director of the Virginia Farmers Market Association, is known for her  expertise in strategic planning and capacity building. Dr. Hutchins provided VA participants with an overview of the Virginia Market Manager Certification Program. This session offered insight into the VA Farmers Market Association and the good works happening across the state. More information about the VA Farmers Market Association can be found HERE.

Erin Fitz, Agroforestry AmeriCorps VISTA with Appalachian Sustainable Development, presented “Growing & Marketing Medicinal Herbs.” With an emphasis on sustainable agroforestry, this presentation offered an overview of forest grown products, marketing opportunities for fresh and value-added herbs, and regulations for herbal value-added products More information about ASD and their Agroforestry initiatives can be found HERE.

Charlotte Tolley, Executive Director of Nourish Knoxville and Executive Director of the TN Association of Farmers Markets brought us “Growing Nourish Knoxville,” a presentation on how Knoxville’s Market Square Farmers Market became one of the nation’s top producer-only farmers markets. This presentation gave market managers a chance to learn best practices from an organization that has shown markets can thrive with the right tools. More information about Nourish Knoxville can be found HERE. 

Sharon Rice, VA Cooperative Extension Agent and Feeding America Southwest VA Coordinator, filled in the gaps for markets accepting EBT/SNAP. This presentation gave participants a deeper understanding of how these programs work and benefit local economies by supporting agriculture. More information about Feeding America Southwest VA can be found HERE.

This event is brought to you in collaboration with the Appalachian Farmers Market Association, the Appalachian RC&D Council, and Appalachian Sustainable Development, supported by the USDA, TN Dept. of Ag., and VA Cooperative Extension.