Q&A: Charlotte Tolley, Executive Director of Nourish Knoxville

Tolley, the executive director for the recently formed nonprofit Nourish Knoxville, organizes its Winter Market at the Historic Southern Railway Station on West Depot Street, held on Saturday, Feb. 8, from 10 a.m. to 2 p.m. and on the second Saturday of each month through April.

How and when did Nourish Knoxville come into being?

We talked about doing something like this for many years, and last year we formed a board and transferred the Market Square Farmers' Market into that organization.

How have things changed since the first MSFM?

This will be the 11th season, and all of downtown has changed so much in that time. There haven't been fundamental changes to the MSFM, but it has grown exponentially in the last few years.

What can we expect with this winter market?

You'll find a lot of meat, storage crops, specialty foods, and baked goods. There are so many interesting things that come from farms, beyond the summer bounty—most people don't think of alpaca fibers or beeswax candles, for example, but those are farm products. We also have a vendor that cultivates mushrooms, one that specializes in all sorts of peppers, and one that raises quail and pheasant.

Is it only recently that nearby farmers had enough stuff to make a winter market feasible?

We felt like there was a critical mass to be able to start a Winter Market. We have a number of farms with meat that have been doing drops in Knoxville the past few winters and more growers interested in season extension, plus we have farmers with things like dried peppers, cornmeal, garlic, and cheese that could benefit from a place to sell during the winter. We also have a number of food trucks participating, many of them serving food made with products raised by other winter-market vendors. Plus salsas, dried pasta, jams, pickles, locally roasted coffee, plants, and more.

Has the law saying Tennessee kitchens no longer need to be certified for folks to be able to sell baked goods changed anything?

Not at our markets. There is a domestic kitchen exemption for direct sales, but all prepared food at our markets must be prepared in an inspected facility.

Do you have a favorite way to prepare winter produce?

The Internet is fantastically helpful for seasonal eating. If I have something I don't really know what to do with, I just search for it and get some direction. I actually don't consider myself much of a cook—I just like eating good food, and when you have great ingredients, they can mostly speak for themselves. Probably my favorite winter thing is to roast whatever I have, like sweet potatoes, beets, and onions, and put that over grits with some sautéed kale.

Is the Nourish Knoxville local produce guide in progress?

We just started work on it in September. We have an initial draft on our website so people can get an idea of what we are doing, and we would love for people to contact us if they want to be listed, by e-mail at info@nourishknoxville.org.

How can people sell at the spring/summer market?

Look over the 2013 applications on our website and make sure you are eligible, then make sure you have all the proper licensing for the product you want to sell. Then apply when our applications are available in mid-February.

For more info: nourishknoxville.org.