A Hot Commodity: Chattanooga's Locally Grown Food

 Baby goats at Eden Thistle, photo from the Eden Thistle Facebook page

Baby goats at Eden Thistle, photo from the Eden Thistle Facebook page

2015 has just begun and local, farm-fresh food scenes in Chattanooga have increased now more than ever. Covenant College students have become dramatically more involved since Eden Thistle, a local farm, has begun a 2015 Buyer’s Club. Environmental science majors Rachel Kelley and Lauren Seip both enjoy volunteering at the farm, exploring a godly approach to farming. That includes purchasing pasture-raised meats, eating less processed foods, and eating meat less. Siep said, “They have a buyer's club where you can subscribe and get a membership. You'll get eggs, chicken breasts, chicken thighs, whole chickens, and whole pigs."  

After the city's leading farmer's market advocacy group, Gaining Ground, was depleted of grant money in 2013, Chattanooga farmers, supporters, and Covenant students have banded together to continue health-conscious practices, including Harvested Here Food Hub and Eden Thistle, by buying from local farmers and businesses, which are easily advertised by Harvested Here. Students who want to subscribe to Eden Thistle's Buyers' Club or volunteer at the farm can contact the Teague's at edenthistle@gmail.com.

Harvested Here aims to connect farmers with the community through business services like distribution networks and comprehensive workshops. With fresh food high in demand, Harvested Here primarily aims to educate and remind residents of why buying local is important. Their website defines local food as “fruits, vegetables, meats, eggs, artisanal cheeses, breads, and more” that are grown in a 100 mile radius of one’s city. “We see it as our mission to strengthen and secure the future of a healthy regional food supply,” said Whitney Marks, sales and marketing director of the company . “Educating and involving the public—our consumers—is part of that mission.”

Besides forming stronger business incentives, the company establishes stronger community relationships. Marks stated that customers and farmers develop trust because consumers can get to know their farmer personally. “Farmers and people you would have never crossed paths with become like family.” Media and marketing prove to be a key factor in facilitating these relationships. These platforms give farmers more time to grow and maintain products so that they spend less time on marketing and distribution.

Harvested Here's lime green logo adorns the doors of businesses like 212 Market, Southern Sqweeze, Local Juice, and Easy Bistro. Other businesses place the logo on packaging. Currently, Harvested Here serves Slider’s Pizza, Niedlov’s, and Community Café, among others. The company also has a website and several media outlets such as Facebook, Twitter and Instagram.

Eden Thistle Land Stewardship Co., run by Covenant alumni Marshall and Katherine Teague, is another farm-fresh option for Chattanooga residents, but especially Covenant students. The farm is not only close to the college, but the farmland belonged to Frank and Dottie Brock, former president and alumna, respectively. Their website states: “Eden Thistle Land Stewardship Co. exists to create connections for students, families, and our community to interact with responsible husbandry practices."

Covenant students can easily plug in to Eden Thistle. Kelley added to Siep’s comments, saying that  “although they don’t grow vegetables, they offer eggs, chicken, and forested pork, which is similar to free-range chicken.  The meat isn’t USDA certified, but everything is organic.”