Today we’ll take you on trip to a downtown destination where food and community fill the streets of Asheville, North Carolina. Music from the local band Empire Strikes Brass echoes through downtown as farmers, customers, and vendors kick off the outdoor market season.
First we hear from Robin Lenner, the events coordinator at ASAP. “I’m excited to see people’s faces as they come to the first downtown market outside,” she says. “I know people have really enjoyed the winter market, but are really excited for it to be back outdoors.”
The first cucumbers of the season catch Robin’s eye. They were grown by Danny McConnell of McConnell Farms, who proudly stands behind a table full of apples, cider, and cucumbers he grew on his farm. “We have one greenhouse dedicated to cucumbers and one dedicated to tomatoes. So we’ll have tomatoes in in about two weeks, but right now we have cucumbers in,” he says. “Spring cukes are always the best.”
Across the way, Catherine New from The Clean Plate Asheville is serving up breakfast tacos. She uses local ingredients from Darby Farms, Hickory Nut Gap, Sleight Family Farm, and Three Graces Dairy. “I’m here every Saturday unless it’s raining sideways,” she exclaims.
At the other end of the street, Chue Lee from Lee’s One Fortune Farm in Marion, North Carolina has a little bit of everything, from cilantro and green onions to spinach and fresh eggs. It’s her first year at Asheville City Market and she says she’s looking forward to seeing new people each week.
Hannah Parks is an Asheville resident and ASAP volunteer who is on the hunt for asparagus. She finally found this coveted hallmark of spring, and plans to make a stir fry or other dish that highlights the fresh flavors of asparagus. She says the first outdoor market of the year is like going back to summer camp. “The farmers market is someplace you go every summer, but you only see people during that time frame,” she says. “It’s a good homecoming.”
Customers laugh and greet each other as the market fills up with people. “This is a great morning,” says one woman as she hugs a friend she hasn’t seen in a while. The mood is joyous as Empire Strikes Brass finishes up their first tune of the morning.
Are you ready to add outdoor farmers markets to your weekend routine? Asheville City Market is celebrating its 10th anniversary this year. It’s open every Saturday morning through December on North Market Street in downtown Asheville. Find more farmers markets in Asheville and throughout the Southern Appalachians in ASAP’s online Local Food Guide: www.appalachiangrown.org