By LISA WHALEY
Things are happening at Jonesborough’s Boone Street Market and new manager Cameron Hege is more than happy to be in a front row seat.
“People have really lost their relationship with food; there’s no intimacy,” Hege explained. “We lost about 30 years where we’re really having to retrain ourselves to look at food that we eat as sustenance, but also that it provides for more than just yourself, considering the farmers and the local economy.”
At Jonesborough’s locally-grown market, he has found the perfect place to spread that message.
A Tennessee native — Hege grew up in Knoxville — he had spent most of his career in retail management, as well as kitchen management. But when life in Philadelphia became more than a little hectic, he and his wife looked to move back home.
“I was working crazy hours, she was working crazy hours and we wanted to move back and have a more comfortable way of life,” Hege said.
The opening for a market manager at Boone Street a little more than six months ago seemed tailor-made for him.
“I have a good background in food and a good background in retail,” he said. Plus, there was the chance to learn so much more.
“Being in a kitchen, I mean you learn to identify products and quality, but the amount I’ve learned about local groceries and how the local economies are affected by local farming. . . I mean I’ve learned so, so, so much while I’ve been here.”
Besides getting the chance to clearly grasp the value of the flavors of locally produced ingredients, Hege is excited to be a part of the market’s new role both in expanding its products but also its importance.
While the market is still committed to its 100-mile-rule for much of its stock, they are broadening the search for other harder-to-find products.
“Our produce and meat, that’s never gonna change. That’ll always be within a hundred miles,” Hege said. “But we did expand our radius several weeks ago to products sourced within a 100 miles, then to sourced within Tennessee and then, if absolutely necessary, to sourced within central Appalachia.” This way, he explained, the local link and quality remains, but the variety of items can expand.
Hege is also pleased about the new emphasis on the market as a source of fellowship as well as food.
“We want to make the market an actual event environment, like a venue,” Hege explained. The popularity of the monthly 100-mile dinners have already proven a need.
He cites the Thursday Night Markets as a new example.
“We have vendors, we have a live band, we have get an event permit so people can sit outside and enjoy beer if they want to,” he said. “We have menu items out of our kitchen.” The next Thursday night market will be held June 21 from 5 to 8 p.m.
And that’s just the beginning, there is a ongoing food story, Hege believes, that needs to be shared. And his continuing goal is going to be to get spread the word.
Visit www.jonesboroughlocallygrown.org/ for more information.