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Why Farmer's Markets?

“Unaltered nature.” This was one vendor’s response when asked why so many people seem interested in farmers’ markets these days. “People are tired of corporate, processed foods. This is getting back to traditional nature,” he continued. Many vendors had similar sentiments. “Nothing’s ever as fresh as here.” “You get to build a community.” “It’s a better taste.” “You know where your food is coming from.”

Each of these quotes came from vendors at the 12 South Farmers’ Market, a market founded in the summer of 2011 by Ms. Mary Hyatt. The tents come up every Tuesday from 3:30 to 6:30 May through October. The market can support 36 vendors in total, both seasonal and full-time, and applications are submitted online.

The Downtown Market

The 12 South Market is one of several farmers’ markets across Tennessee, and across the country. Between 1960 and 2000, the number of farmers’ markets nationwide grew from around 100 to over 3,000. Since then, the numbers have only gotten larger. The growth shows a revival of an older kind of food-distribution system. In this system, farmers, consumers, and other producers come together to buy directly from each other, rather than going through middlemen and other retailers.

Nashville has a rich history of farmers’ markets, starting with its downtown market. The Nashville Farmers’ Market was created in the early 1800’s, where it began on the town square. Back then, market vendors would line up their wagons on the square four to five rows deep to sell their produce. In the 1930’s, however, a new Davidson County Courthouse was created, and a new Market House had to be constructed on the north side of the square. In the mid-1950’s, the Market House moved again to a new location just north of downtown on Jefferson Street. In 1995, the market was renovated, and now covers roughly 16 acres of urban land.

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