Winter Farmers' Market, Market Square, January 2022
The Winter Farmers’ Market has moved around a bit in recent years. Pre-pandemic it was alternating weekends at the Central United Methodist Church. During the first winter of the pandemic it was held outside at the Mary Costa Plaza where the summer market was held. With the move back to Market Square of the summer market, the winter market has now moved to Market Square where it will remain every Saturday through March 26. The market will be open from 10:00 am to 2:00 pm.
I spoke to Ellie Moore, Markets Manager for Nourish Knoxville, who pointed out the footprint will expand tomorrow. The space was limited the first two weeks due to the ongoing dismantling of the ice rink. With it gone, this week’s market (and all future winter markets) will expand to include all of Market Square and the ring around the small wooded area on the south end. Union Avenue and Market Street will not be utilized during the winter.
There were about thirty members with booths the first two weeks, but with the expansion there will be room for fifty-seven, though she said she expects the number to be around forty-five for now. Even with more vendors, the expanded footprint will allow for a wider aisle down the middle (twenty feet as opposed to ten feet) to allow for more distancing — as well as for a better, less crowded experience for shoppers.
Ellie said that even before the pandemic the group was struggling with the location of the Winter Market. She said they loved working with Central United Methodist, but they had outgrown the basement where they were located. “It broke our hearts . . . We have more products and more vendors and it just couldn’t continue.”
The Mary Costa location allowed them to have good distancing and enforce the city’s policy regarding masking at the peak of last winter’s surge. COVID protocols changed from the city, though masks are still encouraged in crowds, particularly for unvaccinated guests, and this year, “it seemed natural to keep it where the customer base is used to having a market.” They have hand sanitizer and disposable masks available.
Most of the vendors are accepting cards, though some request cash. Tokens are available for purchase and ATMs are located nearby. You can find details on COVID policies here. In-person activities for Nourish Kids Club are now in effect (once each month) but sampling will remain in a to-go package. There is also an interactive map which allows customers to “see if their favorite vendors will be in attendance and where to find them on Market Square.”
The Winter Market is off to a good start, with about 700the first weekend and about 700 guests first market. As a comparison, the first week last year at Mary Costa Plaza was around 550. Now that the rink is gone, and market publicity has increased, they expect it to grow. As Ellie said, “Winter is still a fantastic time to shop for locally grown market assortment of winter vegetables.” She points out that quantities are smaller in winter, so get there early for your greens, carrots, winter squash, and prepared foods.