Garden Patch to Table Top

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In 1998, buzzwords like “farm to table” and “organic foods” weren’t yet part of many Chattanoogans’ vernacular. But that year, a sustainable agricultural project within the city was just about to take off. “Our founders, Will and McNair Bailey and Mary Moore, approached the city looking for a space to grow local foods. Fortunately, a beautiful property was donated to the city around that time, with the stipulation that it remain in agriculture. It was the perfect fit,” explains Crabtree Farms project coordinator, Andrea Jaeger.

Describing the founders as some of the first visionaries in the local food movement, Jaeger credits their foresight and support as being the driving forces in creating Crabtree Farms. Today, the nonprofit organization, which serves the community through sustainable food education and advocacy programs, has a 30-year lease with the city, renting the property for only $1 per year.


These days, local food is at the forefront of people’s minds, across the country and here in our city. “I would say that it’s a huge part of our culture,” Jaeger says. “People in Chattanooga are outdoor minded, and many have real concerns about our environment. Sustainable agriculture is one of the most important en
vironmental issues of our time, and I think that’s the reason why people really embrace it.”

Screen Shot 2015-10-22 at 1.00.40 PMApart from the environmental benefits provided by using local foods, Jaeger explains that local food is usually harvested at the peak of ripeness, within hours of arriving on your plate. Food loses its nutritional value the longer it sits in a box and on a shelf, so when you eat fresh, locally-grown food, you’re getting a more nutritious bang for your buck. The importance of getting locally-grown foods onto the tables of Chattanoogans is also emphasized by Whitney Marks, sales and marketing representative at Harvested Here Food Hub, which exclusively buys local food from farmers and distributes it to area organizations. On the Food Hub blog, she cites both freshness and taste as major factors that not only give local food the edge, but also boost the economy. According to Grow Chattanooga/OCHS Center, if Chattanooga area residents increased their local food purchasing by only 5%, more than $100 million in new revenues would benefit our local economy. “Money spent locally stays local and builds the local economy,” Marks writes.

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Fresh fruits, locally-harvested cheeses, and organic meats aren’t possible if not for local farmers. Luckily, the Chattanooga area has scores of them, and they’re assisted by Crabtree Farms’ initiative called Grow Chattanooga.

Started five years ago in conjunction with the Benwood Screen Shot 2015-10-22 at 1.11.28 PMFoundation’s Gaining Ground Initiative, Grow Chattanooga (originally called the Local Food Program) works to promote local food and agriculture. “Farms are disappearing at an alarming rate across the country. We want to ensure that our vibrant
local farming community continues to thrive,” Jaeger says. Partnering with our community’s sustainable family farms to get their foods onto local tables is one of Grow Chattanooga’s main goals. “We saw a need especially with new farmers getting started. They have the will and the excitement needed to do sustainable, small-scale family agriculture. All they need now is a customer base,” explains Jaeger. “We want to provide them a resource to really get their name out and help them promote themselves and connect with consumers.”


Along with Crabtree’s Grow Chattanooga initiative and educational programs, they stay busy by providing
sustainablygrown, fresh produce each week to their 130-family CSA* program. They also sell their yield at a farm stand, open Fridays and Saturdays, and the Main Street Farmers Market on Wednesdays. And if Chattanooga- area restaurants want to purchase local food, Grow Chattanooga connects them with the Screen Shot 2015-10-22 at 1.18.00 PMHarvested Here Food Hub. “Grow Chattnooga has done a fantastic job of connecting businesses who want to purchase local food to the Food Hub. It’s a great synergistic relationship,” explains Marks. Harvested Here Food Hub currently works with 32 growers to provide services from aggregation and storage, to distribution, to crop planning, and more. Growers affiliated with Harvested Here supply multiple restaurants and other establishments, putting locallygrown food within reach of any Chattanoogan

*CSA stands for Community Supported Agriculture. Crabtree Farms’ CSA program supplies quality, fresh produce for your household each week, making it easy and more affordable to eat sustainably-grown, local food. Want to be involved? Learn more at
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