A New Option for Downtown Food: Better Bushel

Better Bushel 2


Food. It’s always an issue for those of us who live downtown. One of the great conversations when I moved downtown in 2009 was “what will you do about groceries?” The idea suggested was that downtown living wasn’t viable because of the lack of a downtown grocery store. Of course, downtown residents can do what residents of any section of the city do: get in a car and drive to a grocery store.

From my house it’s about a three minute drive to Food City on Western. Five minutes gets me to Kroger on Broadway or Chapman Highway. Twelve gets me to Trader Joe’s via interstate. It’s about that long to Earth Fare and less to Three Rivers Market. A trolley ride gets me to Publix at The Commons.  Those are a good many options and likely as many as any suburban resident has at their disposal.

BusinessBits, Just Ripe Sign2, Knoxville, March 2011

Still, an ethic that accompanies urban living is that of being able to fulfill one’s needs without benefit of a car. It’s not as easy in Knoxville as it is in some cities. Mass transit struggles here. We’re sort of a developing urban center. Options of varying quality and comprehensiveness have presented themselves: Aisle Nine came and went, The Market was a convenience store, then a grocery/convenience store, then it reverted a bit. The downtown Farmers’ Market helps tremendously.

Just Ripe seemed our first home-grown attempt at a small, daily grocery store. We could get some fresh vegetables, eggs, cheese and various other grocery items. Downtown caught a break, in my opinion, when the store remained open thanks to a sale to Century Harvest Farms. I felt the importance of the store superseded its importance as a food-provider. We needed the presence of a serious effort at providing good food to the residents of downtown.

Just Ripe continues to evolve. You’ll find some of the same products and take-away food offerings. You’ll also find it looks quite different if you haven’t been in for a while. Things have been re-arranged. Some products have been consolidated and others have bee introduced. But it’s a service they’ve just introduced which could be a game-changer for downtown residents and downtown workers.


Better Bushel is an effort on the part of Century Harvest Farms to provide local food for people who value fresh food grown by farmers who value good food. Some of the food is produced by Century Harvest Farms and some is from other local providers. What is available will vary by season, of course, but other items will remain constant.

For Urban Woman and  myself, the biggest game-changer in what is offered is the meat. We try to find meat grown without extra hormones and like our beef to be grass-fed. If you’ve ever had a burger from the Hoof Food Truck, you’ve had Century Harvest Beef. Follow the link above and you’ll find ground beef, steaks, roast, ground beef, sausage, ribs and pork chops. We ordered a pound of New York Strips just after noon yesterday. They were ready at our chosen time (5:30 PM) and on the grill by 6:00 PM. It’s pretty much perfect for either residents or downtown workers who want to take some meat home at the end of the day without making another stop.

While fresh vegetables aren’t currently in play locally, a variety of additional products are offered. Eggs, cheese, beef and chicken stock, mushrooms, butternut squash are all ready for your online order. Staples such as maple syrup, farm-made ketchup, jam, coffee, grits, corn meal, brown and white rice and more. Cruze Farms products are also offered. The plan is to bring in more farms and products throughout the spring.

I’ll think of it as a way to supplement the Farmers’ Market. I like buying directly from the farmers on Wednesdays and Saturdays when possible, but if I forget something on Saturday and need it Monday? I’ll look online before I get in a car. Chances are I can have it for dinner.


I hope those of you who live and work downtown and read this blog will support this new method of getting good food. Mine was ready with my name on it at the end of the day and yours could be, as well. Like all the other services that we want to have downtown, when we get one, we need to support it. This is no different. They have a Facebook Page and they would appreciate a “like.” More than that, they need you to go online and place an order. Try it out. You’ll like it. We loved our very lean steaks for dinner.

The process isn’t limited to downtown. There are four pick-up spots including Just Ripe, but also The Plaid Apron, Royal Oaks and Century Harvest Farms. It’s a model Century Harvest Farms hopes to expand in order to offer good food to everyone who’s interested. One of my questions was whether this is a CSA, which means you commit to a subscription. I’d worry that the food might not get used before more food arrives. Sometimes life happens and we don’t cook. Not a worry. Order just what you want, pick it up fresh and cook it.

So, what about it downtown residents and workers?