Market Square Farmer’s Market Moves and Adds New Safeguards (Plus a list of other things you need to know today)

If you’re one of the many Market Square Farmers’ Market fans, you’ve probably started wondering about the plans for the downtown institution that is set to open on May 2. Given our current situation, it’s obvious it cannot currently operate as it has in the past. Nourish Knoxville has released plans to make the market safe for shopping while still delivering the food we love.


The market will begin, as scheduled on Saturday, May 2 and will, as it has done in past years, operate both Saturday and Wednesday each week afterward. There will, however, be major changes, beginning with location. The new location for the market will be Mary Costa Plaza outside the Civic Auditorium and Coliseum. The new site allows for a large flat space in which flow can be better controlled (there will be one entrance and one exit) and social distancing can be observed. Hours both Wednesdays and Saturdays will be 9:00 a.m. to 1:00 p.m., but the first hour will be for at-risk shoppers (immune-compromised and elderly).


Upon arrival at the new site, you will find “food, farm and hygiene vendors.” Craft vendors are not allowed at this time, in order to provide for appropriate spacing for booths and lines. Parking is plentiful and free inside the garage across the street. Shoppers will be expected to follow current CDC recommendations, including staying home if you are sick, wearing a mask inside the market is encouraged (there may be some masks available at the entrance) and attending to your mission in a business-like fashion. Socializing is not allowed inside the market.


Mary Costa Plaza, Knoxville, April 2020
Pets are not allowed and all shoppers will be expected to wash or sanitize their hands upon entering and exiting from the market. Everyone must remain six feet or more apart and only vendors will handle food. Nourish Knoxville is also requesting only one shopper per household. We’ll be asked to pay with Paypal, Venmo or other options that reduce contact. Most vendors will also be able to accept debit or credit cards and will have the signing part turned off to reduce contact. Cash is discouraged, but a plan is in place to keep it from circulating throughout the market.

You’ll also notice that vendors are wearing masks and are subject to a list of hygiene-related requirements to keep everyone as safe as possible. They will handle and bag your purchases. You can see a complete list of customer, vendor and Nourish Knoxville staff responsibilities and expectations here. Curbside pickup is also an option, with volunteers set to assist with loading.


I asked Charlotte Tolley, Executive Director of Nourish Knoxville for some elaboration. She said the move was “necessitated by the canceling of events on City property.” She noted that the improved access control would keep shoppers safer and remove the market from so close to a residential area. The new site answers these issues.


Mary Costa Plaza, Knoxville, April 2020
Mary Costa Plaza, Knoxville, April 2020
She made it clear she fully intends to return the market to Market Square as soon as that is possible. That move will likely come with distancing still in place, which would make including craft vendors still impossible. She is hopeful that will be in time for the holiday season, but that remains uncertain.


Some of the changes were implemented during the final winter markets. She said, “Thankfully, the majority of customers have been gracious and thankful for the increased measures . . . We will be monitoring the number of customers in and out so the footprint doesn’t become too crowded.”


She knows the new rules take the fun out of the market, but at this point, the focus has to be on getting fresh food to people in a manner that is safe for everyone. She said it has been hard for staff to work from home to completely redesign the market while caring for family members, but they all feel their mission is an important one and are happy to “feel like we are contributing.”


Market Square Farmers’ Market, Knoxville, July 2016
Market Square Farmers’ Market
In addition to the market, Nourish Knoxville, as part of their mission to build healthy communities through local food, also produces a local food guide, which you can find here, as well as a CSA guide for farmers delivering to Knox County  Charlotte said that
over the last few weeks, quite a few food and farm producers are ramping up their online stores, and some are working together to offer home delivery, shipping, or pick-ups of multiple products. One lovely side-effect of all this is I think we are seeing more collaboration than ever before. With more farms offering on-farm pick up, there is opportunity to visit farms that are usually never open to the public. There are some good things coming out of all this!


It’s hard not to be able to give any answers, and to basically be stripping the farmers’ markets down to their essence. At the same time, we are so proud and lucky to have so many amazing farmers and food producers that have things like eggs, meat, and produce that are running low in stores.


One thing people may not realize is that there is currently no option for online payment for SNAP and WIC recipients, which means no grocery delivery or curbside option. We accept SNAP and offer up to $20 per day in Double Up Food Bucks for the purchase of fresh fruits and vegetables, which all has to be done in person. Thanks to a grant from the Tennessee Department of Health, that program is funded through June 2022, and we are grateful to have that stable funding to be able to continue that program for the foreseeable future.
Quick Notes About Other Important Topics:
  • Since many of you have not been able to come downtown in a while, you may not know the Dolly Parton mural in Strong Alley was vandalized. It has been restored with funding from Dogwood Arts by local artist Megan Lingerfelt in conjunction with original artist Colton Valentine. They’ve come up with a different twist on the original topic.
  • Knox Whiskey Works is producing and selling hand sanitizer. Check out their current hours on their Facebook page and call for curbside pickup of hand sanitizer and perhaps some additional distilled products.
  • The good folks at High Resolutions are offering to make free signs for businesses during this difficult time. Check out the options here.
  • A series of webinars are being offered regarding the Cares Act. The first in the series starts at 10 a.m. this morning.
  • Keep Knoxville Beautiful is urging you to discard your used mask, gloves or wipes in a garbage can. Unfortunately they are showing up all around town and even on trails. Nobody wants to touch your used PPE.
  • The Oliver Royale and Balter Beerworks with Project Be Kind are teaming up to produce 100 pay-what-you-can (if at all) spaghetti dinners. They will be available this Sunday at 3:30 p.m. at the Oliver Hotel.
  • Gift card giveaways are still underway. For this round I’m going to buy a $25 gift card to Union Avenue Books and another $25 gift card to the Art Market Gallery. All you have to do to enter is send an email to with the subject header “Union Avenue Books Gift Card Giveaway” or “Art Market Gallery Gift Card Giveaway,” depending on which you want to enter. Same rules as before: “like” Knoxville Page on Facebook to help us help local businesses and donate at least $10 to something supporting COVID efforts or to someone impacted by the pandemic. Confirm in the email that you’ve done both and tell me how much and to whom you donated. Each entry requires its own donation. If you cannot donate at this time, enter anyway and just say so. It’s all good. I will give you until midnight Friday night this time around.
  • You can also purchase gift cards to a number of businesses in one stop here. Bliss/Tori Mason should be added to the list, today. Your business can be added, as well by emailing