CHURCH HILL — The demand for Butch Whitaker's homemade salsa and pepper relish exceeds the amount of peppers and green tomatoes he can produce in his home garden
That's why he buys fresh produce in bulk from the Church Hill Farmers Market.
On Saturday, Whitaker picked up a bushel each of sweet banana peppers, hot banana peppers and green tomatoes that he had pre-ordered from Tim Sanders, farmers market manager.
They'll be going into a fresh batch of salsa and pepper relish this week at his home in Carters Valley.
"I guess people like it because they keep coming back for more," Whitaker said. "I've got a big garden, but it’s not big enough to keep up with the demand. That's why I come down here. I can tell Tim what I need and he gets it for me. Nobody beats his quality or his prices."
Sanders deals with about a half-dozen area farmers, and when he gets special requests like Whitaker's peppers and tomatoes, he knows where to get them.
If you make a request on Tuesday to Thursday, he should be able to meet that order by Saturday.
"Butch requested peppers, and I had two requests for sacks of corn and a request for jalapeño peppers," Sanders said. "Believe it or not, all of that came from four different farms. I'll call them up and say, can I get this, can I get this, and they'll say yeah."
Sanders added, "Most of the time they'll pick it the day before. Anytime you can buy direct from the farm it's going to be fresher, and better quality than (grocery stories). Customers really enjoy the freshness and the quality that comes direct from the farm."
The Church Hill Farmers Market is open Tuesday, Thursday and Saturday in front of the Church Hill Public Library.
There's usually about a half-dozen sellers set up with fresh produce for sale.
Aside form meeting his special orders, on Saturday Sanders was selling beans, five varieties of tomato, potatoes, corn, okra, cantaloupe, squash, zucchini, bell peppers, sweet potatoes, onions, apples and peaches.
Other vendors Saturday had similar wares. There was a batch of watermelon selling for $3 each, jars of local honey and some really good looking yellow tomatoes to be found for $1 per pound among the traditional produce on sale.
Local apple and peach season is now upon us, and Sanders said he expects to be receiving orders for bushels of apples and peaches from folks who can apple butter, peach butter and preserves.
"The biggest thing here in Church Hill, we're a fresh food market," Sanders said. "What that means is we try to provide anything we can grow locally, and/or brought in. So if you're looking for certain product, you can find them here."
He added, "The key with our farmers market is when you ask where did the beans come from, they come from Nolichucky. Where do the watermelon and cantaloupe come from? Back early in the season they'll come from South Carolina or Georgia. The peaches usually come out of South Carolina, and right now they'll start coming out of Georgia, Virginia, North Carolina. We don't pretend like we grew everything."
Church Hill Farmers Market charges no fee to vendors, and anyone is welcome to show up on Tuesday, Thursday and Saturday and sell their produce.
It's generally open from may through Halloween, although Sanders may be back in November as long as he has fresh produce left to sell.