Summer produce is in season, and vendors at the Lebanon and Mt. Juliet farmers’ markets are meeting their sales targets despite some early concerns about COVID-19.
“I have to say, I was really worried about this summer,” Kimberly Underwood, of Underwood Farms in Watertown, said. “I was afraid about the prices for our supplies going up and about customers not wanting to come out, but everything I was worried about has just disappeared. We’ve already passed our expectations for the summer.”
Underwood has been coming to the market for 14 years, and she said her customers have made this season her most successful yet.
“I’ve lived here my whole life, and it’s all about supporting the local farmers,” Joey Jane Bradshaw said. “We’re lucky to have this here, because not every community has a local farmers’ market. If you don’t shop it, it goes away.”
Across town, the Mt. Juliet Farmers’ Market is ramping up its summer season as well. The vendors in Charlie Daniels Park set up shop more recently, but they said buyers were ready for them.
“We started last week at this market,” Jennifer Krog, of Wacky Walrus Farm in Lebanon, said. “Last year was our first year, and we were at Batch and Bushel on the fairgrounds. I think it’s going pretty well, and I love the location. It gets really busy on Saturdays.”
Krog said she is seeing more interest from the community because of COVID-19, with some people wanting to know where their food comes from and others trying to avoid groceries.
Mariam Wilkinson, a first-time vendor at the Mt. Juliet Farmers’ Market, said that means farmers are dealing more with supply issues than any customer losses.
“A lot of people have started doing their own sustainable growing, so it’s getting harder to find seeds,” she said. “And Tractor Supply Company is still selling chickens after April, which means there’s a higher demand for eggs because they usually aren’t selling them this time of year.”
That increased demand for homegrown food is bringing in a steady stream of customers like David and Lisa Severy.
“We started coming at the end of last year,” David Severy said. “Everything is so nice and fresh, and it’s great to be able to support local farmers. We’re planning to keep coming out when we need groceries.”
Veteran farmers in the community are seeing also seeing consistent sales, including the 30-plus-year stalwarts at Evans Produce Farm.
“Haskell Evans has been doing this since he was 9 years old, and I’ve been helping for around 14 years,” Linda Walker said while running a booth at the Lebanon Farmers’ Market. “I started the first of June, but we’re here every Saturday all year. Business has been pretty good, better than I thought it would be at the beginning.”
Bobby Walker, who has been coming to the market from Gladeville for roughly 25 years, also said his experience this season has been business as usual.
“We used to have a spot on the Nashville market, but after they moved we came out here,” he said. “It’s something I grew up with in my family, and I love coming out here and meeting different people.”