By Jana Jones
Farmers Market Manager
The dog days of summer seem an odd time to start planning holiday menus. However, if you want locally produced meats grown and processed just the way you like them gracing your holiday tables, it’s time to track down that rack of lamb, pasture raised poultry, prime beef rib, or heirloom breed pork sausage.
Local farmers are taking reservations now for the poultry, pork, lamb, and beef, as well as specialties like cured hams and local sausages, which are in high demand throughout the holiday season.
Most local farms are relatively small family farms, so herds and flocks are limited to the numbers the farm can accommodate. Once the birds or beasts mature and are ready to market, there’s no time to raise more to fill last-minute holiday orders.
What are the benefits of buying local meat? Pasture-raised and grass-fed meats tend to be much more flavorful and higher quality than factory farmed varieties. When there are less steps between your food’s source and your stomach, the less of a chance of contamination. Another benefit of having fewer steps that your food must take to your plate is that the nutrient value is still high. Traveling food from big grocery stores has diminished nutritional value, higher fat content, higher caloric content, and probably has quite a few hormones and food additives within it.
In addition to stimulating the local economy and supporting local farmers, eating local has inherent environmental benefits in the community as well. Factory farms tend to completely destroy the environment surrounding them. They pollute the air, water, and soil with contaminants while local, sustainable farms tend to maintain the farmland in your area and leave an incredibly less significant carbon footprint.
The Johnson County Farmers Market (JCFM) has contacts for growers in Watauga County, Ashe County, Avery County as well as Johnson County for pasture raised beef, lamb, poultry, pork as well as venison. Beech Mountain Farms, Chestnut Grove Farms, Harbin Hill Farms, Blevins Farms, and the Roman Farm are regularly at the JCFM on Saturdays. However, if you cannot make it to the market and wish to contact them directly, send an email to JohnsonCountyFM@gmail.com to obtain their information.
A statewide directory for holiday meats can be found on the PickTn website http://picktnproducts.org/tips/meat_2018.html. Pick Tennessee statewide directories include Christmas tree farms, wineries, farmers markets, farms with fall produce, and makers of artisan products like cheeses, goats milk soaps, and beeswax candles. Directories of locally made specialty products, from alpaca yarns and clothing to fine chocolates, are also available.
If you haven’t visited the Johnson County Farmers Market this year, we are located at Ralph Stout Park in the parking area near the children’s playground. Come enjoy the live music, farm fresh produce, eggs, meat, dairy, and local handmade baked goods and craft items each Saturday morning from 9 until noon.
Check out our new “Breakfast at the Market” tent and come by the manager’s table to find your “Fresh is Best” t-shirt and other items and information. We offer the Fre$h Savings Program which doubles the dollars for EBT customers. Bring the kids by our GoJoCo Kids tent to make healthy snacks, participate in fun activities and earn tokens to spend at the market. We invite you to like us on Facebook to see all of the current news or visit our webpage to learn more.