Home Grown


Gianna Mancini

Fresh radishes at the Farmer’s Market

Lilah Catron, Staff Writer

Where does your food come from? Since COVID, new innovations such as online shopping and drop-off groceries have made chain supermarkets even more accessible. Unfortunately, much supermarket food isn’t organic – quite the opposite in some cases. Plus, if you do want to get organic food from the supermarket, be prepared to pay the price! But what if you had access to that same fresh, all organic food- or fresh baked-goods- at a lower price? Enter the Johnson City Farmer’s Market. 

The Johnson City Farmer’s Market has been around since the 1970s. According to the Farmer’s Market website, the project originally started off as F.A.R.M. (which stands for Tri-cities Farmers’ Association For Retail Marketing). Even though the Farmer’s Market was based in JC, it got absorbed into the Kingsport market. In an effort to change this, the market moved around a couple times in the 2000s and settled in a city owned parking lot. But, six years ago, it moved again to the Founder’s Park Pavillion. 

The change in location was a big deal, making the Farmer’s Market feel more official. I personally can remember going to the Farmer’s Market when it was based out of the city-owned parking lot on State of Franklin. It was the right choice to make; I think the Pavillion’s bathrooms attracted a lot more people because it was equipped with shelter and lighting, making a more comfortable place for the vendors to sell their goods. Even COVID didn’t stop the Farmer’s Market from cranking out fresh goodies, though live music was put to a halt. If anything, sales increased as people searched for reliable food sources; beans and corn were among the best sellers during 2020.

This change in attitude inspired new farms to pop up all over, specializing in everything from peppers to mushrooms. One of these farms is Exodus Collaborative, based out of Watauga Tn. Exodus collaborative sells both weekly food packages, which you can sign up for on their website, as well as whatever extra retail they have any given week. The farm is owned  by two business partners: Jeff Brodszenski and Mark Bailey. Mark’s wife Ashley was a former teacher until she left to help run their homestead. But even with all hands on deck, they needed some extra help. 

Exodus Collaborative has opened a work-share program where people are able to work on their farm for a couple of hours in exchange for a week’s food package. These packages include a little of whatever was grown that week; they have anything from bell peppers, tomatos, carrots, and more.  I interviewed Jeff Brodszenski, the part owner of Exodus Collaborative.

“You can come on down, we’ll put a tool in your hand and you can start working,” he tells me.

Over the years, Exodus has had several families take part in this work-share program with an increase in participants since COVID. Aspiring homesteaders and people who just want to work the land area all welcome, no experience needed. 

Local food is becoming more and more relevant to people after supply chain scares. But this isn’t the only reason local food is important.

Jeff, who has been a full-time farmer for two years says, “For us, we think it’s important for there to be a robust food economy because for one, it’s getting us back to our roots as people that worked with and relied upon our neighbors and our friends. And that’s something that’s important to us, we’re kind of losing that in our day and age.”

Exodus Collaborative works partially on a membership basis with pickup locations in JC and Elizabethton. The membership based selling has made it easier for a lot of people to switch to local sellers because you don’t have to worry about planning things out; it’s all there for you. 

The Farmer’s Market is in business until mid-October. Be on the lookout for fresh beets, bell peppers, broccoli, brussel sprouts, cabbage and carrots. Apples are also in season, which is perfect for classic fall time sweets. Pumpkins are in the rotation, too- it’s never too early for Halloween decorations!