The locals-only Farmers' Market, every Saturday on Market Square, has been one of the most serendipitous developments in town in the last few years. The vendors tend to attract hundreds of customers, young and old, just like they did a century or more ago.
It opened for the season last Saturday, and usually opening day isn't something to go out of your way for. The Market Square Farmers' Market usually starts out slow—there's not a lot of genuinely local produce until the summer—but this past Saturday, despite the rain, turned out a record-breaking number of participants. The market hosted 47 stalls, and a pretty fair crowd that included a few musical celebrities playing in town, including singer-songwriter Amos Lee and regional icons Southern Culture on the Skids. They browsed around together as a band, like the Monkees.
But some of the celebrities were manning the stalls. Cruze Farms was selling its local milk. Cruze, located on a 575-acre farm near Strawberry Plains, is one of the larger dairies left in Knox County.
Ordinarily they might not have expected to run out of our grandparents' favorite drink, buttermilk, long before sweet milk or chocolate milk. The woman running the booth seemed surprised that some customers had actually seen a recent article about them in a big-city paper. But the previous Sunday, the New York Times Magazine had featured an illustrated feature called "Got Buttermilk?" with a flattering profile of Cruze's farm, touting its cultured buttermilk and quoting 66-year-old Earl Cruze's claim that it's "better than Viagra."