River Arts District Farmers Market: Growing Community Around Fresh Local Food

I am lucky to watch a community in the making every Wednesday, May through November, in a grassy field next to All Souls Pizza in the River Arts District. When I arrive at noon, the field is a blank slate of sunshine and promise. Farmers pull up with overloaded pickups and unload vegetables in every shade on the color spectrum. A mini village of pop up tents, thirty 10×10 squares in rows, and the River Arts District (RAD) Farmers Market opens for another afternoon.

Customers arrive, pick up CSA boxes, and inquire of their farmers the best way to prepare kohlrabi or rutabaga. Cheese is sampled; pastries purchased. The band begins to play, and we are all connected in our weekly Wednesday rhythm. Then, just as quickly as it began, the wares are packed up, tents are loaded into not-quite as full trucks, and we head our separate ways – until next week when we do it all again: growing our community one apple, one conversation, one afternoon at a time.

“The RAD Market is a special place of community gathering and connection, and something that I look forward to each week. The vendors are great representatives of Asheville’s farm and food culture. The setting invites you to stay a while and soak up the River Arts ambiance, a mixture of urban and natural environments. In short, it’s the perfect market experience!” exclaims market customer, Matthew McDaniel.

What will you find at our market this Spring? Abundant leafy greens of all kinds, strawberries, peas, turnips, beets, microgreeens, radishes, spring onions, carrots, baked goods (with and without gluten), wheat-grass juice, coffee, chai, goat cheese, ghee, eggs, beef, chicken, pork, charcuterie and deli meats, mushrooms and other wild-crafted foods, fresh flowers, kraut and kimchi, kombucha, kombucha scooby dog treats, pickled veggies, jam, snacks, hand-crafted herbal medicine, CBD oil, plant starts including vegetables, flowers, and herbs, relaxing chair massage, henna art, gift items including balsamic vinegar, crafts, and natural body care products.

Many of our farms offer CSA shares. When you sign up for a Community Supported Agriculture (CSA) share, you commit to a farm by purchasing a “share” of what they grow that season, in convenient weekly boxes. Produce shares available from: Aardvark Farm, Flying Cloud Farm, Full Sun Farm, Gaining Ground Farm, and Ten Mile Farm, and meat shares from Intentional Swine. You can connect online to inquire whether they are still selling CSA shares.

This is our fourth market season located next to All Souls Pizza. All Souls offers a wide selection of pizza (including gluten free), soups, salads, and sandwiches. The menu changes seasonally, and you often see All Souls’ chefs purchasing the freshest ingredients straight from our farmers. Look for wild ingredients as well, such as chanterelle mushrooms and nettles.

Our market is kid- and dog-friendly! We are the only farmer’s market in Asheville where you can sip a cider or beer as you shop. Warm afternoons you will often see families having picnics with take-out pizza and other goodies from the market.

According to market shopper Rebecca Lance, “We love having the RAD market in our neighborhood. Its location in the All Souls field allows a lounging experience perfect for families and friends to connect, have a beer and listen to music. It connects our small community to the larger Asheville community that sustains local sustainable agriculture.”

Dry Ridge Farm co-owner Wendy Brugh says, “My partner is typically the one who sells our products at RAD, but most weeks, I end up bringing our two daughters to market to run around the grassy field with a dozen other kids while I have a drink with friends. It’s that kind of market.”

New this year: Bring your ‘Love Asheville, Go Local Card’ and receive a coupon for $1 off any purchase.

SNAP/EBT and credit card customers can bring their cards to the market booth and receive tokens to pay vendors. If you live in town, come by for your weekly grocery shopping. If you’re visiting, we’re a short drive from New Belgium Brewing, the renowned River Arts District Artists, and many other local businesses. Treat yourself to a decadent baked good, pack your picnic basket for a drive on the Blue Ridge Parkway, or buy a gift to take home.

Support local farmers and have a good time following the advice of customer Todd Gatts, “The RAD Farmers Market is a lovely, casual collection of food makers and farmers who are actually making a difference in their world. The whole thing is so honest and unpretentious, it can restore your faith in humanity. Go. Buy some real food. You’ll feel better.”

The River Arts District Farmers Market, Wednesdays 2-6pm, May through November – 175 Clingman Avenue, adjacent to All Souls Pizza. Learn more about our market and sign up for our mailing list at www.radfarmersmarket.com. You can also find us on Facebook and Instagram.

Kate Eckhardt is Executive Director of the River Arts District Farmers Market, a local nonprofit. Kate has spent several seasons working on local farms, which enables her to appreciate just how hard our farmers work to bring food to the market. Nowadays she enjoys gardening, wildcrafting, and creating herbal medicine. You can also find her in the warm months cavorting with the Faerie Kin performance troupe at local festivals.

Sandi Tomlin-Sutker
Written by Sandi Tomlin-Sutker