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With lots of ideas swirling in her head, Tasha Kennard wakes up every morning determined to spread the word about why the Farmers’ Market plays such an important role in Nashville’s good health and vibrancy. As the director, she admittedly took the helm a year ago facing many challenges. However, the opportunities far exceed the hurdles. It is with great pleasure that we introduce you to Tasha Kennard.

Tasha Kennard

Tasha Kennard

Are you originally from Nashville?

Yes, born and raised in Goodlettsville and graduated from MTSU. A few years after graduating college, I moved to Winston-Salem, N.C., for a job, and my husband and I moved back to Nashville in 2008 before we started our family.

As the new director of the Nashville Farmers’ Market, can you share with our readers your ideas going forward?

The community has requested more local farmers, more family-friendly programming, and more music and events celebrating the diversity of our community, and we are going to deliver. We want the Nashville Farmers’ Market to be a destination and gathering place for generations to come. We are working hard to enhance and improve the market experience, and are focused on recruiting more local and regional farmers, artisans and crafters. We’ve also added several new Market House establishments including SLOCO, The Picnic Tap and Batch Nashville (opening this month), and we will be announcing a few more new additions in the coming months. We’re also expanding our event services to utilize the space we have as a blank canvas for local events, festivals and community activities.

Why are you such a good fit for this job?

I like to solve problems, I enjoy meeting new people, and I find life’s most rewarding moments spending time with my family including my husband and two children. I love to garden and experiment in the kitchen (I hate following recipes!). Professionally, I’ve been a lobbyist, planned citywide events, opened Krispy Kreme stores, fed the hungry, and now I have the great honor to serve the community by transforming the Nashville Farmers’ Market into a destination and gathering place for generations to come.

Historically, the Nashville Farmers’ Market has faced some challenges that other farmers’ markets don’t have. Can you elaborate on how you plan to attract local purveyors and make the market financially viable?

It is important to recognize that we are operating a large, multiuse facility 362 days of the year that rests on 16 acres of urban land featuring four outdoor sheds, a garden center and a Market House, which offers a diverse selection of restaurants and shops. In order to rebuild and transform the downtown market, we must regain the trust of local farmers and the community by implementing merchant standards and processes to recruit and retain more local farmers and producers. We are also re-evaluating the placement of merchants to improve the market experience, enclosing the southeast farm shed to increase air conditioned space, and developing a plan to reduce our waste and “green” the market. Finally, we’re increasing the diversity of our offerings inside the Market House and strengthening our branding, programming and community relations efforts to increase foot traffic throughout the week.

Tasha Kennard

Tasha Kennard at the Nashville Farmers’ Market

The buzz on Nashville as a destination for incredible food is at an all-time high. Can you discuss the role of the Farmers’ Market in this exciting trend?

The Nashville Farmers’ Market has an opportunity to inspire and advance the food culture in Nashville and surrounding communities by connecting farmers, artisans, chefs and the community to high-quality, fresh produce, protein and dairy products. As our food scene attracts more chefs, and people become more aware of the nutritional benefits of eating more fresh fruits and vegetables, the creation of a food hub and processing center will be a critical next step for our city. I hope to position the Nashville Farmers’ Market as a landmark for such activity and rally public and private support to make it happen.

The Market House at Nashville's Farmers' Market.

The Market House at the Nashville Farmers’ Market features a variety of restaurant options and plenty of seating.

For our readers who have never been to the Nashville Farmers’ Market, why should they go?

I can’t think of a better way to spend a Saturday. It’s something my family and I have always enjoyed. Who doesn’t enjoy juicy, ripe strawberries in May, a pink lady tomato in July or sweet corn in August? If you shop at the market, you’ll have an opportunity to meet the person who grew it and ask them questions. As an added bonus, you can also grab lunch, shop with our crafters and food artisans, and then enjoy a walk through the beautiful Bicentennial Mall next door. If you haven’t been lately, check out our monthly Meet Me at the Market event on the second Wednesday of the month from 10 a.m. to 2 p.m., featuring healthy living cooking workshops in the Grow Local Kitchen and Master Gardener demonstrations. Or attend a Night Market on the third Friday of the month from 5 p.m. to 9 p.m., offering extended market hours, restaurant specials, live music, local wine and specialty cocktails, craft beer and a unique local shopping experience.

Peppers aplenty at the Nashville Farmer's Market.

Fresh produce is found by the bushel at the Nashville Farmers’ Market.

Who was an early mentor to you?

I met Lewis Lavine during an internship at The Ingram Group, the firm I continued working for immediately after graduating college. I was a lot younger than everyone else at the firm, but he never treated me differently. He encouraged my participation at staff meetings and in client brainstorming sessions and always took time to gently guide me. Since that time, I’ve turned to Lewis on many occasions, and he has always helped me define what I am seeking or counseled me when I am facing a challenge. His generosity of time and guidance have had a great impact on me personally and professionally, and for that, I am incredibly grateful.

What valuable pieces of advice have you been given that you’d like to share?

  1. Be present
  2. Leaders listen
  3. Optimists exercise faith
  4. Be honest in all that you do

Is there a recent meal at a local restaurant that has wowed you?

Most people who know me know that I usually ask the server to surprise me with an entrée. Sometimes I give them a few options to choose from; sometimes I don’t. I started doing this about 10 years ago when I was traveling a lot and wanted to try new things but found it intimidating if I didn’t know how to order it. After many years of delightful surprises, I now find it hard to pick from a menu, so my standard order is “surprise me.” That request recently landed a steaming bowl of bouillabaisse in front of my husband and me at The 404 Kitchen, followed by a dessert that was so delicious we sent bourbon back to the kitchen as a thank you.

Where in town do you go when you’re looking for an inspirational boost?

I love that Nashville has so many beautiful parks and have found that a long walk or hike at Percy or Edwin Warner Park can heal just about anything and help my family reconnect after a long day.

What books are on your bedside table?

My great-grandmother’s red leather Bible, The Go-Giver, a few cookbooks, a stack of Southern Living magazines, and my daughter’s pencil box filled full of knickknacks she has collected over the past few weeks.

Do you have a favorite vacation spot?

A week in St. George Island is an annual requirement for my family. It is a quiet, dog-friendly island in the Apalachicola area in Florida. It’s a great place to visit if you need to slow down, because there isn’t much to do outside of watching the dolphins, kayaking or picking up fresh oysters and shrimp from the seafood truck near the lighthouse.

What are three things you can’t live without, excluding God, family and friends?

Hot baths, a good cup of coffee and holiday gatherings.

All images by Ashley Hylbert of Ashley Hylbert Photography.

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