By Cillea Houghton
NASHVILLE, TN — The Nashville Farmers’ Market is breaking ground on a series of renovations to update and expand the facility in a project titled “Growing Together.” Major components of the expansion include the Fresh Savings Program, a new grand entrance at the north side of the market facing the Tennessee State Museum, additional leasing space, a new waste center and an urban farm and artist residency program.
Additionally, $1.2 million from Metro Government funds are going towards replacing the heating and cooling system. The project will feature a public art installation at the grand entrance, along with an artisan kiosk program that provides retail space to local artisans to display their work. “We are reimagining how we utilize the space here at the market,” said Nashville Farmers’ Market Executive Director Tasha Kennard.
The renovation will add 3,000 square feet of new leasable space, half of which will be devoted to classroom and meeting areas and the other half to retail space inside the market. The multi-year leases are part of a five-year revenue plan that will cover the market’s operational needs. A new waste center will also be constructed on the south side of the market where customers can drop off recycled goods, and the current waste site will be turned into retail space that will connect with the farm sheds. Recycling and compost stations will be added throughout the market in an effort to become a zero waste facility by 2020.
The Fresh Savings Program will also be expanded, with many of the new farmers and vendors partaking in the initiative that allows visitors to purchase goods with an EBT card. The market then matches $20 for every purchase made.
Seventy percent of the contractors working on the renovation are women, minority and veteran owned companies including Gould Turner Group, A&S Electric, Inc. and Maxwell Roofing. Kennard worked with the procurement office at Metro Government to hire these businesses.
“It’s important for us that as we grow, we’re building up our community and we’re utilizing local minority, women and veteran owned businesses to handle the renovation project here at the market,” Kennard said. “We’re founded on a mission to support small business. That’s important to us as an organization.”
Two local farms will house part of their operations at the market. Rally House Farms will use hydroponic methods to grow lettuce and herbs, while Bass Farms will build an onsite greenhouse to harvest microgreens.
“Right now, we’re in a moment of great risk to our farming communities in Middle Tennessee and across the south,” Mayor David Briley said. “The community partnership between farming and this place is something we’ve really got to stay focused on and make sure that we make a long term commitment to and preserve for the coming generations so that they know where food comes from, so that they have access to healthy food and so that the quality and the environment of this region is preserved for decades and centuries to come.”
Kennard said that the renovations will help the Farmer’s Market engage with the community, specifically those living in the Germantown neighborhood where it resides. A variety of educational programs will be offered, such as learning how to grow one’s food. “These renovations open up opportunities for people that live here. Many of the new leasable space areas, the programs that we’re going to be introducing with this renovation, will support people that live in our community, that do business in our community,” Kennard said. “That is very, very important to us that we stay rooted and connected there.”
The market will remain open during renovations.