April showers bring farm-fresh flowers

The wait is over! Find out here when your favorite tailgate market officially opens this season. For openings dates of markets outside of Buncombe County, visit asapconnections.org.

The beginning of tailgate-market season is a bit like the start to a new year of junior high school. But instead of being excited to hear about your friends’ vacations, to see what they’re wearing and to find out who they are or aren’t dating, you’re excited to find out what your friends will be growing, baking and creating all season long. Here’s the gossip:

Welcome the new kids

There are two new kids on the area tailgate market scene: Janice Sitton, the new manager of North Asheville Tailgate Market, and Natalie Pollard, the new manager of West Asheville Tailgate Market. Both ladies are excited about their roles and have news to share about their respective markets for this season and beyond.

“Local foods are extremely important for our community,” says Sitton, who recently moved back to the Asheville area after a stint on the West Coast that got her hooked on farmers markets. “While in California, I became a weekly farmers market shopper, sometimes going to two or three a week to enjoy an incredible variety of seasonal foods.”

Since being back in Asheville, her favorite market moment has little to do with shopping for farm-fresh goodies. “I felt like I found my future when I got the job and met the North Asheville Tailgate Market members for the first time.”

What’s in the market’s future? “The NATM hopes to offer EBT (food stamp) and credit/debit services at the market sometime this year,” Sitton says. Look to their website (northashevilletailgatemarket.org) for the start date. With the addition of NATM, EBT processing will be offered at more than a dozen markets in 2011. Sitton also says that additional arts and craft vendors and children’s activities will be brought in for special events once a month, including a Spring Fling on May 14 and a Halloween celebration on October 29. The NATM opens April 16.

Pollard, who previously managed a farmers market and CSA at an urban farm in Philadelphia, is also planning more events this year for the WATM. And, she has big plans to build a website and otherwise help the market continue to expand. “What’s exciting for me is that the market is growing,” she says, adding that they’ve brought in more vendors, farmers and local food entrepreneurs. The total vendor count will be around 25, give or take, each Tuesday this season.

“It seems like there’s a nice synergy going with the community,” Pollard notes. To keep and strengthen that connection, this will be the first year that WATM is looking to community businesses, nonprofits and other supporters of the local food movement to provide market sponsorships.

While not new to the area, Riceville Tailgate Market and Weaverville Tailgate Market do have new elements to talk about. Weaverville Tailgate Market — now in its third year — recently launched a Facebook page in anticipation of its market season, which began on April 13. Riceville Tailgate Market — in its fifth season — has a new location and new hours. The market will now be held Fridays from 4-7 p.m. at Groce United Methodist Church on Tunnel Road; their first day of the season is May 20.

A taste of tailgates

Asheville City Market
(ACM) set the tone for a season of tastings with a live cooking demonstration by Tupelo Honey Café on their opening day (April 16). According to ACM market manager Mike McCreary, tastings will continue throughout the year. Chef Nate Allen of Knife & Fork in Spruce Pine — who sources nearly all of his ingredients and materials from “extremely local growers and suppliers” — plans to whip up delicious dishes with market goodies at ACM every month. Allen’s first demo is Saturday, May 14. “Shopping at a tailgate market is fun,” Allen says of his pre-demo process.  “I grab different things and mix and match to create something new.”

To find information about tastings and special events at other area markets, visit buyappalachian.org and browse “tailgate markets.”

Baked goods bonanza

For lovers of artisan breads and baked goods, this year’s market season could be shaping up to be your favorite yet. Dave Bauer of Farm and Sparrow bakery will debut his new McEntire’s Pride bread at opening markets (find Farm and Sparrow at ACM, NATM and the Wednesday Co-op Market). The bread is made entirely from wheat grown by John McEntire of Peaceful Valley Farm in Old Fort, and Bauer and his team mill the wheat themselves.

What other local treats await at tailgates? Aimee Mostwill of Sweetheart Bakery plans to make strawberry rhubarb pies (with rhubarb from her own garden), strawberry lemon streusel coffee cake, cornmeal cheddar ramp scones and a variety of savory tarts — like potato, leek, cheddar and potato, ramp and goat cheese (find her at ACM, NATM and the Wednesday Co-op Market as well). 

Ready for market?

We hope the gossip has piqued your interest and gotten your mouth watering! To find out when your neighborhood tailgate is back in session, check out the opening day calendar in the sidebar or visit Appalachian Sustainable Agriculture Project’s website at asapconnections.org. For weekly updates of what’s fresh at markets all season long, check the tailgate listings in ASAP’s online Local Food Guide, buyappalachian.org, and follow ASAP on Facebook.

— — Maggie Cramer is the communications coordinator at Appalachian Sustainable Agriculture Project (asapconnections.org). Contact her at maggie@asapconnections.org.

who: Aimee Mann (Blake Hazard of the Submarines opens)
where: The Orange Peel
when: Friday, Sept. 24 (8 p.m., $23 advance/$25 doors. theorangepeel.net)

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