CAMPBELL COUNTY (WVLT) – The amount of tomato-related Salmonella cases is going up everyday, but the bacterial scare apparently hasn’t had much of a negative impact on East Tennessee’s farmers’ markets.
Over the weekend, several regular market-goers and even some new ones got a rare chance to see exactly how the regions small farmers raise their crops and livestock.
Nearly two dozen Market Square Farmers Market customers signed up and took part in Sunday’s “To The Source Farm Tour.”
It can best be described as a field trip for adults. The group boarded a bus at Knoxville’s Market Square and took off to Campbell County to tour a pair of farms belonging to regular vendors at the twice weekly farmer’s markets. Each of the tour’s participants brought with them interest and curiosity.
"I wanted to see the farm and the people who grow it and how they grow it," said Laura Lee Thompson.
“I'm very interested in where my food comes from,” said Hilary Williams, “and I haven't been to farms in Tennessee"
The group got to see “Spring Creek Farm”, which specializes in berries and fruits, as well as “A Place of the Heart Farm” which has a large vegetable and herb garden.
When it comes to keeping their produce safe, the heads of each farm said they keep things natural, which starts with no chemical herbicides or pesticides.
"It says on the bottle right off, ‘cover your clothes, wear gloves, and wear a mask,’ said Adrienne Gibson, of A Place of the Heat Farm. “I'm not spraying that on my food."
The Campbell County farmers even use fertilizer that comes from the ground rather than a store. Their fertilizers are made up of layers of manure, weeds and hay.
"It helps in killing off the bad bacteria,” said Gibson. “The worms are working through, turning it into the pure soils all around. The composting happens naturally."
Spring Creek Farm uses even uses a natural pesticide.
"The guinea come through and we let them,” said Farmer Adam Cottrill. “They'll walk through the garden and they don't eat any of the vegetables, they just eat bugs."
While Salmonella remains a concern from commercial growers in Florida and Mexico, some of the visitors said they feel safer eating produce from local farms compared to commercial ones.
"By the time it gets here, there are so many things that could have happened,” said Williams. “This produce is picked the day before or the morning of the market and brought right to us in Market Square."
"I think you see the care that goes into this whole process,” said Thompson, “You can tell it's a labor of love."
Both of the Campbell County farms are located in Pioneer.
Organizers plan to keep hosting the tours, and expect to stop at new farms every month.
You can read more about them by clicking on the link below.