The Maker City monthly blog takes a look at locations where makers are found in The Maker City and features some of Knoxville area’s outstanding makers – artists, crafters and so much more. This month’s blog features Charlotte Tolley, founding director of Nourish Knoxville, and Allyson and Chris Virden of Olde Virden’s Red Hot Sprinkle.
Charlotte Tolley of Nourish Knoxville
How long have you been involved with Nourish Knoxville? Can you give a brief history of the organization?
Nourish Knoxville was founded out of the Market Square Farmers' Market in 2013 with a mission to build healthy communities by supporting relationships between local farmers, producers and the community. By creating opportunities for direct sales in several area farmers’ markets and providing nutrition incentives and education, Nourish Knoxville aims to improve the availability of fresh, locally grown food while supporting the local economy.
Since 2020, Nourish Knoxville has been working with regional partners to accept EBT/SNAP and offer SNAP doubling at farm direct sites in East Tennessee. Nourish Kids is a regional educational program in which children ages 2 -12 receive a seasonal produce sample, activity, and $5 to spend on fresh fruits and vegetables of their choice.
Additional programs include the East Tennessee Local Food Guide; Nourish Community, a produce recovery and donation program; Nourish Moves, a walking incentive program; and field trips from schools and community groups to farmers' markets.
Why should people visit Nourish Knoxville farmers' markets?
Nourish Knoxville's farmers' markets are known for their commitment to promoting local producers, showcasing some of the best local farmers and artisans in the region. They offer a diverse range of fresh produce, meats, dairy products, baked goods and artisanal crafts.
Nourish Knoxville operates three farmers' markets in Knoxville: the Market Square Farmers' Market in the heart of downtown, the New Harvest Farmers' Market at 4775 New Harvest Lane in northeast Knoxville, and a Winter Farmers' Market on Market Square in the off-season. Each offers a unique experience.
Overall, visiting Nourish Knoxville's farmers' markets provides an opportunity to connect with the local community, support local farmers and artisans, and access fresh and nutritious food, all while enjoying a vibrant shopping experience.
Where can people find Nourish Knoxville online?
Charlotte Tolley is a founding market manager of the Market Square Farmers' Market and the founding director of Nourish Knoxville. She has been working in the local food system in East Tennessee for over 20 years, during which she operated a small co-operative food store, volunteered with the founding board of Slow Food of the Tennessee Valley, and served on the board of the Tennessee Association of Farmers Markets.
Allyson and Chris Virden of Olde Virden's Red Hot Sprinkle
How did you get started as a pepper maker?
The idea for Olde Virden's was conceived while we were managers at LeConte Lodge in the Smokies. We used to have a homemade pizza night with the crew. When they brought out the generic crushed red pepper, Chris asked, "Do you think a better tasting and spicier version of crushed red pepper would sell?" So we put it to the test. Nine years later, we are in over 800 stores, sell online, and sell to numerous chefs who use our product in their recipes. We’re even on the table in some of Knoxville's favorite pizza restaurants.
What do you make, and how?
We specialize in dehydrated chili pepper blends. We source our peppers from local Tennessee farmers and manufacture the Sprinkle in our small family-run facility in Knoxville. The peppers are dehydrated the same day they are picked up from the farm. The product is shipped within a week of being bottled. Small batch processing guarantees our product is fresh.
The pepper blend is a healthy and delicious alternative to hot sauce that is free of sodium, sugar, additives, or preservatives.
In 2022, we introduced our newest creation, Sweet Sting Dehyrated Hot Honey! It's a blend of honey granules and our Red Hot pepper blend. It is the perfect addition to pizza.
Where are your products offered for sale?
We sell our product at the Market Square Farmers Market, over 800 stores over the United States, including the Visit Knoxville Gift Shop, and online. We recently launched in Texas, Oklahoma, Louisiana, Mississippi, and Arkansas. We have a retail locator page on our website that will tell you the closest retail location for your zip code. oldevirdens.com