A CSA, or Community Supported Agriculture, is a program that pairs a farmer with a customer who is buying a “share” of the farm. The farmer delivers their share once a week, or sometimes once a month. There are many ways in which farmers set up a CSA program, and you can find the one that fits you at the East Nashville Farmers Market! We have several farms who offer vegetable CSA’s: Delvin Farms, Athena’s Harvest, Quarter Spring Farm,Bloomsbury Farm, Lost Weekend Farm and Flying S Farms, and three farms who offer meat CSA’s: Tavalin Tails Farm, Wedge Oak Farm and Triple L Ranch.
Picking up a CSA box of fresh veggies with Sweet Strawberries.
Ten Reasons to Join a CSA
Support a local farm and learn how your food is grown. We all have a doctor for our health, but what about a farmer? With a CSA you can have a personal relationship with your farmer and get to know who is growing your food and how. By buying a CSA, your money goes directly to your local economy, your personal farmer, and you are helping to keep the family farm alive while having access to healthy, nutritious food.
Learn how to eat with the seasons You will eat leafy greens in the Spring and Fall, tomatoes and cucumbers in the Summer and root vegetables in the Winter. This is how we are meant to eat- with the seasons when produce is at its best and flavor is delectable.
You will learn to eat a variety of food You may not know what to do with kale now, but if you join a CSA you’ll get the opportunity to learn to cook vegetables you’ve never tried.
The Fruits and Vegetables are fresh Unlike fruits and vegetables in a grocery store that are harvested with shelf life in mind, the fruits and vegetables harvested for a CSA are hours old, at their ultimate peak of flavor and freshness.
Committing to a CSA will force you to eat more fruits and vegetables By buying a CSA share, you will have access to fresh fruits and vegetables every week. You won’t want to waste those veggies, and you will end up with healthy eating!
You’ll cook more Many CSA’s give their customers recipes for what is in the CSA box. You’ll learn to cook things you never knew about and you’ll feel accomplished! Cooking at home will save you money in the long run, too.
A CSA saves you money Compared to buying the same amount/volume in the grocery store, joining a CSA will save you money. You’ll have to go to the grocery less, too.
There are Vitamin and Flavor Benefits of CSA fruits and Vegetables When a fruit or vegetable is harvested, it immediately begins losing vitamin content. Having your veggies hours old ensures you are getting the most out of the nutritional content possible!
Protect the Environment Buying from a local farm ensures that your food does not have to travel the average 1500 miles of grocery store food. You are lessening your carbon footprint by consuming food that is locally grown in a CSA. A small family farm is going to be as sustainable as they can in their growing methods and protect the land- after all, this is their livelihood and it is in their best interest to protect the environment!
Get back to your roots We are now three generations removed from the family farm and our children do not know how food is grown. Participating in a CSA allows you to connect to the farmer, to visit the farm and get back to your roots! Many CSA’s allow you to volunteer on the farm, and others hold open houses to give you a tour.
You can find a CSA farmer at the East Nashville Farmers Market, every Wednesday form 3:30-7:00pm in Shelby Park. Stop by and meet your farmer!
The Old School Farm in Bells Bend, TN, is an exceptional new non-profit that provides sustainably-grown fruits, flowers, vegetables, and herbs while simultaneously serving as an employment opportunity and job-training facility for adults with intellectual and developmental disabilities. Co-founder Rowan Millar, along with his business partner Susan Richardson, formed MillarRich, LLC, a community-based employment services company in the Nashville area. This fully-functioning farm is an extension of their company that produces fresh, local food using organic methods. Therefore, by purchasing Old School Farm produce and herbs at the East Nashville Farmers Market, you are supporting a successful model for agricultural job-training and placement for individuals with disabilities.
Located ten minutes outside of Nashville, the Old School Farm consists of nine acres and a recently-renovated brick schoolhouse built in 1936. The schoolhouse provides a community and fundraising event space and will eventually contain a full certified kitchen and farm café open to the community. The farm broke ground in January of 2013 with an acre in vegetable production and a temporary greenhouse where they began all of the farm’s fruit and vegetable seedlings. Now the budding farm provides their own 20 week CSA program to the public and consists of almost a full two acres in production, an apple orchard, chicken house for egg production, farm office, and a new 900 square-feet permanent greenhouse — all designed and built together by the farm’s managers, job coaches, and employees.
“We’re providing sustainable jobs through sustainable agriculture,” Rowan says. Originally from northern Ireland, the entrepreneur has been a member of the Nashville community since 2000. He and Susan formed their job-placement company MillarRich, LLC, with the goal of bolstering the independence of individuals with disabilities within their own communities. In Tennessee, what better choice than to set this model in place through agriculture? Employees work alongside job coaches to learn skills and participate in a number of farm activities, including fence-building, greenhouse construction, animal husbandry, farm planning, maintenance, and more. It is where the livelihoods of under-served members of our community are improved and a setting to form friendships with their coworkers is provided.
“We should have over 40 varieties of fruits, vegetables, and herbs in the field for this season,” says Ben Brown, one of the two farm managers. He and his co-manager, Rachel Stubbs, both have backgrounds in agriculture and work together for form Rowan’s “team awesome.” Rachel is a Nashville native who studied Biology, Ecology, and Conservation at the University of Washington at Seattle, where she ran the student farm. She was brought on by Rowan as one of the original farm managers, and still plays an important role both in the field and behind-the-scenes. Ben Brown studied Sustainable Agriculture at Sterling College in Vermont and moved to Nashville to work for Old School Farm. The two plus job coach David Scott and employee Josh can be found helping customers, smiling, and having fun together at the East Nashville Farmers Market.
The Old School Farm is rolling through their second season this year with no slowing-down to the infrastructure they are laying in sight. In addition to purchasing their fresh farm eggs and produce or joining their CSA, donation opportunities to assist them in growing their farm and community are available as well. Simply visit their booth at the East Nashville Farmers Market and learn more about how you can participate to assist individuals with disabilities gain sustainable jobs through sustainable agriculture.
Stephanie and Brian Oaks of No 9 Farms, along with their two children Tyler and Abigail, work together on their family farm to produce organic locally-grown herbs, berries, seasonal fruits and vegetables, and value-added products such as high-mineral seasoned salts and hand-crafted teas. Their 40 acre farm in Ashland City, TN, is flourishing into its second year and ever-evolving with added farm products available for every season. No. 9 Farms also provides organic gardening and seasonal cooking classes for members of the community to take a break from the city and learn more about farm living. The Oaks are dedicated to a nutrition-focused, sustainable lifestyle that is reflected in their products, and possess a tenacity for perseverance and hard work that makes the impossible possible.
In 2007, the family left their home in Seattle, WA, and bought a house in East Nashville where they quickly became a part of the community. They installed an edible backyard landscape, began growing food themselves, and purchased fresh local produce at the East Nashville Farmers Market. “Walking to the market every week was a big highlight for us as a family,” says Stephanie. “We could purchase what we didn’t grow ourselves, and we really enjoyed it.” But as the kids became teenagers and the family began running out of space, Brian and Stephanie began to shift their focus from East Nashville to outside the city. “We wanted to teach our kids how to work,” she says, so the family purchased land in Ashland City in 2013.
It began as 40 acres of predominately woodland area, yet it was transformed into cultivatable land through Stephanie and Brian’s perseverance and hard work. “We really laid the infrastructure the first year,” says Stephanie. The couple cleared acres while slowly improving the soil and built a low-energy sustainable home with the help of members from the community. Through their first year, the Oaks’ farm slowly took shape, and by the second year, No. 9 Farms introduced pick-your-own berries, gardening classes in the field, and cooking classes in their certified kitchen.
Arriving at No. 9 Farms today is like happening upon a farm oasis in the woods, with a sparkling creek running along its border that serves as cool respite for the family after a hot day in the field. A rasp of guinea fowl beside a wood-crafted hen house greets you as well as a greenhouse full of seedlings surrounded by rows of berries and herbs. The Oaks harvest fresh, organic parsley, fennel, dill, and a variety of basils, and sell them at the East Nashville Farmers Market as well as local tea companies and breweries. Customers are also welcomed at the farm by reservation to pick-up customized boxes of organic herbs, seasonal produce, and farm eggs.
“We wanted to create a place where people could come and make memories with their families away from the city,” says Stephanie. For her, the goal for No. 9 Farms was to educate—to teach the benefits of organic farming, living, and seasonal and healthy cooking to her community. This drive came from a personal place for Stephanie that influenced and shaped the family’s lifestyle and diet for years to come.
When her son was young, Stephanie was told what every mother dreads to hear—that Tyler was suffering from a fatal sickness that he likely could not survive. She became resolute—she would not accept that nothing could be done for her son and became staunchly committed to his recovery. She poured over research and studied naturopathic healing. A healthy diet with a holistic approach was the medicine and treatment she chose for her son, and within a few years, Tyler made a full recovery.
Today, as the family forages ahead into new journeys, they remain dedicated to a balanced lifestyle that is heavily focused on nutrition, hard work, and sustainability. “Abigail loves to work in the greenhouse and Tyler loves to build things,” Stephanie says with a smile. Although Brian travels for work as a musician and producer, he plays a very active role on the farm when he is home. “I just cut stuff and move stuff with the tractor,” he jokes.
The hand-crafted teas and finely-ground seasoned salts they produce are not only culinary specialties but nutritional favorites of the entire family. High-mineral sea salts and pink Himalayan salts are finely-ground with farm herbs to perfectly accompany jars of organic kernels of popping corn. The popular Rosemary Popcorn Salt is inspired from Abigail’s love for the snack, but also look for their next creation—a Carolina Reaper pepper salt—created for Brian’s love for spicy food. Herbs are harvested and dried on the farm and hand-blended to make teas meant for boosting immunities and calming moods. All of these beneficial value-added products can be purchased at the East Nashville Farmers Market or through Etsy.
As Tyler and Abigail get older and No. 9 Farms moves through its third season, Stephanie continues to dedicate herself to a life that matters to her most: hard work, healthy living, love and family—the life of a farmer. In the past, the Oaks were one of our East Nashville neighbors, walking to the market to enjoy their community. Today, having them join The East Nashville Farmers Market as one of our vendors is a special sort of homecoming for everyone involved. “It’s neat for the kids and us to be back growing things for our community and seeing all the farmers again, ” she admits. We whole-heartily agree.
Now that the market year has completed, we’d like to reconnect with our customer base and share a brief recap of the season. If you didn’t already hear the great news, the ENFM was voted 3rd best farmers’ market in the Nashville Scene’s “Best Of” edition, losing only to the Franklin and Downtown markets (both being equipped with much larger budgets). This is because many members of our community in East Nashville recognize not only the health benefits of buying fresh, nutritious produce, but the benefits that are given to the community, as well. Shopping at farmers’ markets encourages the American tradition of the family farm and helps to ensures farmers survive in our community instead of being forced to sell land to developers. Farms support wildlife in their ponds and fence rows and native insect populations. Buying from the local farmer helps to boost our local economy here in Nashville, and it also encourages genetic diversity in the multitude of fruit and vegetables that can be grown and sold when shipping is unnecessary.
As a smaller market, we are very proud of this recent accolade and will continue to work to create a fun, energetic, and healthy experience for our customers. Our new location in the scenic Shelby Bottoms park has proven to be a success and has lent itself towards the ENFM becoming a destination spot for many members of the community. Events such as our “Fall Festival” and “Ghost Peppers and Goblins” drew crowds in huge numbers and was a ton of fun for kids and parents, alike. We will continue to provide live music, storytelling, and outdoor yoga, as well, which are some of the many attractions that make the ENFM is such a success. We are happy that many of our popular vendors will be returning next season and are excited to welcome some new and interesting additions, as well.
Our 2015 season gets dusted-off and cranked back up in May, and we are thrilled to see how much we will have grown. Until then, please continue to support local farmers and ready yourselves for another bangin’ market season in East Nashville. And be sure to check out the photos from our final market of the season. See y’all then!
According to Greek mythology, the olive tree became a symbol of peace and victory when two gods, Poseidon and Athena, competed for the title of reigning deity of Athens. Poseidon, the god of the sea, laid his claim by striking his mighty trident into the wall of the Acropolis and from it sprung a well of brackish water. But it was the goddess of wisdom and skill who won possession of the city by offering a more beneficial and gracious gift to the land. She knelt beside the pool of water and planted an olive branch that would grow to become a tree. It is the same act of benevolent gift giving deeply rooted in Greek culture that makes Anna Troussas one of our most unique and elegant vendors at the ENFM. Her authentic Greek cookies, breads, and pastries are prepared with the most quality ingredients that keep customers returning, and the love she puts into her work springs from a tradition that can be tasted in every bite.
Anna was born in Hunstville, AL, where her father, Nick Koralis, was working for IBM. He met his soon-to-be wife, Carol, and the couple moved to Tallahassee, FL, where Anna grew-up. Though her father was born and raised in Greece, Anna had never visited the island until the three family members traveled there for a vacation. By the end of the trip Anna declared that she would be staying when her family returned home to America. She found a job, purchased a car, enjoyed the culture, drank coffee, and what was supposed to last only a summer grew to become 3 years of Anna immersing herself in the country of heritage. Within that time, she met and married her husband, Spyro Troussas, and the couple moved back to the States in 2011. They settled in Franklin, TN, where her parents and sister Christina had relocated.
I asked Anna about the significance of cookies and pastries in Greek culture and cuisine. “It’s all about coffee, ” she begins. ” We love our coffee in Greece, and we love to spend time with each other. It’s about taking the time out of your schedule to sit and enjoy coffee and a conversation with someone, and cookies pare a perfect pairing. ”
It is this experience and knowledge of Greek culture and cuisine that equipped her to begin baking seriously when she arrived back in the States. She had always baked for friends, but she had a desire to do more and was encouraged by them to start her own business. She first applied to the Franklin Farmers’ Market and was surprised when her application was accepted. Within 2 weeks, Anna created her menu, finalized her recipes, and developed her packaging. She works out of her home kitchen in Franklin and sells at 3 Nashville markets: East Nashville, Franklin, and Hip Donelson. Her mother Carol supports the bakery in every way she can and Anna even Skype’s with Nikoleta, her enthusiastic mother-in-law from Greece, who offers advice and guidance in Anna’s work.
Like many, Anna comes from a long line of women who pride themselves in their abilities to prepare food. It is the way they show love and care for their families and friends and it is extremely prominent within Greek tradition, Anna says. There is a myriad of female characters who have influenced her work and recipes with history and stories behind them. Most recipes Anna has created herself, but one in particular she did not. Her favorite cookie, the coffee cookie. Anna obtained the recipe from her aunt (or theia) Popi, who immigrated to America from Greece to be married to a man she barely knew. Popi never learned to read, write, or drive a car, Anna recounts, but she was known for her delicious coffee cookies. She prided herself for these cookies , and Anna fondly remembers them as a child. Similar to a biscotti in shape and texture, they are traditionally topped with sesame seeds and filled in the center with a layer of cinnamon. When Popi passed, Anna was determined to pass on her aunt’s love by learning the recipe and giving the cookies as gifts, she says. “I have one every morning with my coffee. Well, maybe more than one, ” she says with a smile.
Another popular item is the traditional koulourakia, which are simple twisted butter cookies that are sold in lovely cellophane pouches . Her handy-work is so meticulous and perfect that they resemble something found in a specialty store, yet each one is prepared and hand-twisted by Anna. “I’ve been making these cookies almost my entire life, ” Carol says, “but not even I can help her. Mine just don’t measure up. ” She also offers a powdered-sugar coated almond cookie that is a favorite amongst children, and a traditional sweet Easter bread that is made with a spice found only on the Greek island of Xios.
Though all of Anna’s treats are, her famous baklava stands out the most. A popular Greek pastry made of gooey layers of phylo dough, nuts, and often times honey, baklava is a decadent dessert. Anna uses a combination of walnuts, almonds, and pecans, and makes a chocolate variety as well. She even sells baklava in a jar, which is beautifully packaged with a pewter ribbon and perfect to give as a gift. It can be purchased individually or purchased in lovely gift baskets with her other assorted baked goods.
She also delivers to customers who can no longer make the markets, and with the ENFM ending its 2014 season, she is not opposed to making deliveries. “This has been my dream since I was a child, and I’m very happy about it, ” she says. “It means something to me that my customers love my stuff. If I can bring them some happiness, I will. I’m so thankful.”
We’re thankful for you, too, Anna.
If you are interested in keeping up with Anna and the Olive Tree Bakery, please “like” her Facebook page at http://tinyurl.com/theolivebranchbakery.
About the author: Rebecah Boynton has a BS in horticulture from Auburn University. She is a writer, an advocate, and volunteers at the East Nashville Farmers’ Market.
We are so excited to share in celebrating the arrival of the newest farmer in the East Nashville Farmers Market family. Wilder Lee Geny was born to at 12:08am on October 9th. He weighed 8lb 5oz and was 21″ long. Mom, Sonia, and baby are now at home and doing well. Stacy has been a bit sleep deprived and hopes to return this week with his veggies from Paradise Produce.
Triple L Ranch: A Family Owned and Operated Cattle Farm in Franklin, TN
Right now on the Triple L Ranch, it’s calving season. Twice a year in the Spring and Fall, the Lee family awakes to a number of new additions peppering the pastoral landscape every morning. Around 150 calves are projected to be born in the next month or so, beginning another season on Nashville’s Certified Hereford cattle farm. What an appropriate time to talk about beginnings and the growth of a small cattle ranch. I chatted with Ann Lee, the matriarch of the family business, and learned how the ranch was born, its decades of history, and how the Lee family pulls together to maintain a healthy herd and a tradition of excellence.
The story begins in Memphis, TN, where Ann was born and raised. Her father worked as a businessman in the city, but also owned a cotton farm in Arkansas where his mother resided. It was trips to this farm to visit her grandmother where Ann first became familiar with farming life. At 18, she moved to Nashville to study statistics at Vanderbilt University where she met a mechanical engineering major named Wallace Lee. Two years later, Wallace graduated and the two were married. For a number of years, Wallace worked as an engineer, then joined the Navy and eventually graduated from Officer Candidate School in Newport, RI, while Ann stayed with her mother. The young couple would move around for 4 years and have 5 children together before settling down in Brentwood, TN. In 1964, they bought the farm in Franklin that would one day become Triple L Ranch.
Originally, the farm consisted of 465 acres with a small commercial herd, raised and bred to be sold at stockyards. Back then, the road they lived on was gravel, a phone call to Nashville was considered long distance, and highway 96 wasn’t even a twinkle in an eye. “We were very isolated, then, ” says Ann. A year later in 1965, the Lees sold the commercial cows and Wallace’s father Louis Leon Lee purchased the first registered Polled Hereford herd, with a dozen heifers and one bull. This marked the beginning of a long tradition of exceptional cattle breeding that the Lees would become known for.
Hereford is one of the two most common purebred beef breeds in the U.S. due to its docility, its superior marbling, and delicious flavor (Angus being the other). Polled Herefords are a hornless variant of the breed that was selected from a naturally occurring genetic mutation. Wallace loved the study of genetics, according to Ann, and read as much as he could on the subject. He began to selectively breed and develop highly desirable traits within his own herd, and as time passed, the Lees gained a reputation for breeding superior cows. They hosted auctions and sold their animals to other farmers– farmers who traveled from all over the country to purchase the particular genetics the Lee’s offered. Their last auction was held in 2008, when the Lee’s son, Stephen (who graduated from Auburn University with a degree in Animal Science) set a goal: to offer their cows as pasture-raised freezer beef instead of auctioning them to other farmers. The meat production began and the family started selling to local restaurants and at farmers’ markets. The citizens of Nashville finally had a place to find local meat produced within their community.
“I think it’s fun to go to the farmers’ markets, “Ann admits. “I have a whole group of people I know now and I know their kids and I can keep up with them. We’ve done well with the markets, and I like doing it.”
She goes on to explain how keeping close social ties to the community is important. “Now, we’re having conversations with people who are eating our beef, not buying our cows for their herd. It’s a different process. It’s more personal, ” she says. “We like to have satisfied customers. If anything goes wrong, we like to fix it. We want everyone to be happy with their purchase, and they usually are.”
Today, 4 out of the 5 Lee children live on the family farm (including 4 grandchildren) and everyone plays their part. Stephen uses his degree to select the best traits possible and keeps the cows healthy, says Ann. Abbey raises sheep on the farm and is beginning to sell her meat at the 12th S. market. Carol is in charge of the bookkeeping and deliveries. Her husband, Daniel, is the farm’s herdsman, and together they have a son earning a Veterinary Medicine degree from Auburn University. Bill is president of the family’s other business, the Lee Company, and Cynthia is the Director of Outdoor Education at the University School in Nashville. She often brings her students to the farm where they can play in the creek, identify insects, and have a fun time. The family recently established a blue-bird trail with 75 birdhouses that Stephen designed and the students assembled. “She may live in town, but Cynthia is a big part of the farm,” says Ann.
Since its beginning in 1964, Triple L Ranch has nearly doubled in size from the original 465 acres to 930, with 3 nearby farms they rent as supplemental pasture. The herd now consists of approximately 400 certified Hereford cows, each one registered with the American Hereford Association. They take a more hands-on and proactive approach to maintain healthy cattle, rather than the much maligned practices of commercial farms and feedlots. The Lee cows are rotated in the pasture often, they are never confined, never given growth hormones, and never treated with antibiotics unless necessary. “If one of our cows gets sick and we do have to treat them with antibiotics,” Ann says, “we take them out of the production completely.” They reach production weight naturally, grazing freely on grass and hay alone until the last 120 days of their lives when they are offered a custom blend of by-product free grains in the field.
The Lees believe this grass-fed/grain-finished approach gives their cows more marbling, makes them more tender, and more flavorful, as well. They are taken weekly to be slaughtered at a USDA certified facility in Paris, TN, which ensures the freshest meat possible. Their products include the ever-popular rib-eye, filet mignon, sirloin, and NY strip, as well as other cuts such as stew beef and roasts. “All the guys like a big, marbled, flavorful rib-eye, ” she laughs, but my favorite is the NY strip.” The Lees have recently added chicken production to their farm and sell whole chickens in addition to chicken feet used to make flavorful stock. Other unexpected products include beef cheeks, ox tails, and bone marrow. They also sell beef bones for people to buy for their pets.
This past Spring, the Lee family lost a very special member. Wallace, or “Pawpaw,” passed away. “He is missed every day, ” says Ann. “But the farm is going to continue. Especially with our grandson who is in vet school right now. We know the farm will go on.”
And it will. The restaurant orders are increasing. The satisfied customers are ever-returning. The grandchildren are off to college, planning their futures. Some will even return to carry the tradition into the future. There is even a 4th generation of great-grandchildren coming-up, and who knows what roles they will play someday. And there are 150 new calves expected to join the family within the next month, after all. Life continues on the Triple L Ranch, and all members join in and play their part.
For more information on meat selections, prices, or placing orders, visit their website at www.lllranch.com. Click here to get their recipe for Beer and Beef Stew. You can also catch them on Wednesdays at the East Nashville Farmers Market.
About the author: Rebecah Boynton has a BS in Horticulture from Auburn University. She is a writer, an advocate, and a volunteer at the East Nashville Farmers’ Market.
1 lb stew meat 2 T olive oil 2 med sweet onions sliced 3 cloves minced garlic 1 1/2 t dark brown sugar salt and freshly ground pepper 3 sprigs thyme tied together 1 bay leaf 1 cup beef broth 1 cup beer 1 T whole grain mustard
Directions: Pre-heat oven to 325 degrees Pat dry the meat,season with salt and pepper Coat large dutch oven with olive oil Over high heat-brown beef in batches–set aside Turn heat to medium Add onions stirring for approximately 10 minutes stirring often. Scrape browned bits. Add garlic, brown sugar and saute 2 minutes till garlic is fragrant Turn to high heat add beef with juices to pot, add thyme and bay leaf. Pour broth and beer over top and bring to simmer. Stir in mustard. Cover and put in oven for 2-21/2 hours till tender. Remove thyme and bay leaf. Adjust seasonings Serve over cooked noodles or mashed potatoes
See them on Wednesday at the East Nashville Farmers Market at pick up your stew meat.
On occasion, our weekly market set-up can be somewhat brutal. The trucks begin to circle around 2pm, shaking dust into the air from a summer’s drought. Boxes are unloaded, bungee cords are wrangled, tents painstakingly popped and tables set. This is not always the most enjoyable experience, especially in the sweltering heat. But during our toil and drudgery, there is a special moment when the faint sounds of George Harrison’s guitar can be heard in the distance, and every vendor stops and looks up from beneath a sweaty brow. An arriving vendor blasts the Beatles White Album from the speakers of his pick-up truck, and everyone smiles in the afternoon sun. This is how Ric Ousley of Ousley Ouch salsa greets us every Wednesday at the ENFM. With a grin, a wave, a truck full of tasty salsas, and great music floating through the dusty air.
One look at Ric, and you can tell he is a cool guys. He is ponytailed, forever barefoot, and clad in a pair of wayfarer glasses, yet he is as friendly and approachable as he is unique. He is a true Southern gentleman, in every sense of the word. He was born and raised in Laurel, Mississippi, on a small family farm consisting of some cattle and gardens. He describes it as a “dirty stinkin’ town” (which is a direct quote from a Steve Forbert song, he says) due to Laurel’s high number of chicken farms and the plywood manufacturing plant. He grew up with one brother and a sister, and though the town was small, he and his brother could leave Laurel and be in the city of New Orleans in 3 hours flat, he says. Growing up on the farm, he developed a love for the Beatles (influenced by his older sist’er obsession at the time) and fresh produce grown in his family’s garden. He came to Tennessee in 1985, and after having difficulty finding a salsa that met his and his sister’s standards, he began to create his own. This is how the first recipe for Ousley Ouch was created: Out of necessity for a salsa that not only tasted delicious, but that was hot enough, too.
As time passed, his salsa’s reputation grew. He made it for friends, family, parties, and holidays. But when the demand out grew Ric’s ability to supply, he began to entertain the thought of starting a business and selling a line of his very own salsas. He took a jar to Barry Burnette at the Produce Place on Murphy Road, said he wanted to sell it, and asked what he needed to do to make it happen. A couple years later and with Barry as his mentor, Ousley Ouch salsa was officially in the works.
In the beginning, Ric and his wife Haseena were preparing the salsa by hand. They rented catering kitchens on Sundays when they were vacant and the Produce Place was their first real market. They offered two different varieties back then: Mild and Hot. Now, Ousley Ouch salsa can be found in approximately 60 stores statewide, including Whole Foods and Publix. They make over 2,500 jars of salsa per month at a semi-automated industrial kitchen in Lebanon, TN, called the Cumberland Culinary Center. Now, Ric offers 4 different varieties in ascending order of heat level: Mild, Peach and Mango, Hot, and Ghost.
Every jar is filled with the best ingredients Ric can find. All the peppers used are grown on local Green Door Gourmet farm here in Nashville, and so far he has purchased almost 800 pounds of their jalapenos this year alone. He held taste tests with his friends to choose the right canned tomatoes before settling on the popular Red Gold Brand. The peaches and mangoes in his sweet and tart salsa are chunky and fresh tasting with no added sugar, because he wants you to actually taste the fruit. He also has a new variety he is tinkering with that he hopes to name “Ridicul-Ousely,” and ridiculously hot it will be, containing the world’s two hottest peppers, the Carolina Reeper, and the Trinidad Scorpion.
After our interview, I’m certain Ric has one thing for sure, in addition to a friendly disposition. He has good taste. Great taste, in fact, and not just in music. He knows how to make a quality, fresh, and healthy product, and make it taste fantastic, too. If you visit the East Nashville Farmers Market stop by Ric’s tent and taste them for yourself. He has samples available at all times with a flavor to fit your taste buds. And if you stick around long enough while the market winds down, you might get lucky and hear a riff or two of While My Guitar Gently Weeps.
For further information and to make online purchases, visit their website at www.ousleyouch.com. You can also find a video here about Ousley Ouch Salsa that recently aired on Live Green Treen.
If you’ve visited one of the many farmers markets scattered throughout the city this summer, you may have noticed a slight figure in an oversized jacket, asking if you’d like to try some salsa. Her voice barely carries over the giant cellophane bags of corn chips with a South-of-the-Border accent as authentic as it gets. Her name is Alice, or the tortilla lady here at the East Nashville Farmers Market and interacting with her feels more like a visit with your grandmother rather than a casual stop at a farmers market booth. I had purchased and quickly devoured a stack of her tortillas months prior, so I was eager to learn more about her background and the story behind her business. As I approach her booth, she is warm and friendly, as always, and invites me to take a seat beside her. After the initial exchange of polite introductions, I jump right into my first question: “Miss Alice, did you grow up making tortillas with your mother?” Like a silly gringa, I was expecting a story filled with tradition and childhood memories to unfold. Instead, Miss Alice digs a pointy index finger into my knee, leans right in, and spouts, “Hell, NO!”
Spoken like a true Southerner. We were only on the first question of our interview, yet I was already masa dough in her hands. I was hooked on Alice’s sparkling personality as much as I was her tortillas. And though the story behind Alice’s beginnings may not be what the typical gringo would expect, it is a story rich with love, family, and togetherness, coupled with an honest desire to provide Nashville with supremely delicious traditional fare.
Alice Heffernan Salazar is actually not from a place south of the border, but from San Antonio, TX, where her family has lived for many generations. (Heffernan is her husband’s name of Irish/German decent, and Salazar is for her father, she lovingly says with her hand over her heart.) Like many Southwestern native Americans and Northern Mexicans, Alice was raised eating flour tortillas instead of the traditional corn, since flour became a foundation to the regional cuisine due to a climate favorable to wheat production and the product’s solid shelf life and shipping abilities. She was 9 years old when she left the Southwest and moved to Chicago, IL, where she and her husband, John, worked in the printing business. And although her trade was not in tortillas, she never forgot her father’s dream of starting a tortilleria of his own. That dream would be forgotten until after their retirement, when Alice and John came to Nashville to be closer to her daughter, Carole, and son-in-law, Colby.
It was Colby’s idea to initiate the bakery, she admits. He wanted his energetic mother-in-law to have something to keep her busy, so he bought the equipment himself and together they launched the company 4 years ago. The entire family pitched in to help, and together they work side-by-side in the tortilleria. Jokingly, I ask, “So, you learned to make tortillas from your son-in-law, Miss Alice?” “Yep, ” She replies. “And guess what? He’s Jewish!” Her sense of humor is devilish and she has everyone around her in stitches. She is adored by all. Plain and simple.
The Santos de Atocha Tortilleria is located at 720 Nashville Pike in Gallatin, TN, in a modest store front in the Sumner Shopping Center. She arrives every morning by 8am and runs the machines until around 10:15am. Piping hot tortillas are ready to be devoured by customers at 10:30am every morning, she says. “Those babies are hot and ready. Just a little salt and salsa, and you’re ready to go.” And thought her story may be a tad nontraditional, her tortillas are anything but. They are made with 3 basic ingredients: corn, water, and lime, and are sold in a variety of sizes, stacked high in warm bundles. The way corn tortillas should be. The corn is local and ground in her store and can be purchased by customers who want to make their own tortillas at home. She also sells a prepared masa for tamale-making, dried corn husks, her addictive crunchy fried corn chips, and fresh cans of homemade salsa made by her husband, the gringo, she says. Her products can also be found in many stores, such as the Turnip Truck and the Produce Place. More information, including products, prices and where to buy, can be found on her website at www. santostortillas.com.
If you are unable to visit her bakery in Gallatin, Miss Alice is always at the East Nashville Farmers Market (as well as other markets in the area), ready to place a warm bundle of tortillas in your hand that you won’t be able to refuse. You’ll be hooked. Plain and simple.