Farm to Fork with Nashville Grown
If you’ve enjoyed sweet potato tots at Silo, a side of turnips at Rolf and Daughters, or the Wild Nashville Salad at Avo, you can thank Alan Powell. As the driving force for Nashville Grown, Alan spends the better part of his days getting local produce from farmers to chefs, and then to your plate. And that makes Powell one busy man. This involves him and his truck . . . and mother nature.
Nashville Grown launched in 2012 with the mission of connecting small, local farms to wholesale outlets such as restaurants, markets, and schools. Its hub is Citizen Kitchens, a mural painted building off Charlotte Avenue that also functions as a shared workspace for chefs (home to Sifted and MEEL and Le Macaron). The day we spent with Alan, he started by gathering up what produce he had in-house and divvying it between delivery boxes. Lauren Palmer of Bloomsbury Farm scurried in with a box of sweet potatoes. Some of the farmers deliver their harvest, but for many, Alan goes directly to them. And circumstances don’t always go as planned.
On this particular day in mid-January, Alan had to make four stops at both urban and rural farms, and then drop off the produce to three separate Nashville chefs by 5:30 p.m. A giant bag of salad greens from the all-indoor hydroponic Greener Roots Farm? Check. Bags of arugula from Green Door Gourmet? Check. Bags of kale from Bells Bend? Check. A load of turnips from Six Boots Growers’ Collective? Che. . . Uh oh. Frost damage! Alan sits in his truck as nature once again throws his logistics into a tailspin and Will Tarleton, a Six Boots Collective farmer, scurries off to dig up some more produce that is on the menu at Rolf and Daughters for that night.
A growing number of Nashville’s chefs also rely on Alan’s expertise for their wild food needs. “The demand for foraged food just keeps growing,” Alan admits. Alan is an expert forager, the kind of guy who could get lost in a forest and gain five pounds. If you have ever enjoyed wild mushrooms or persimmons in an area restaurant, chances are very good that Alan found those for you.
On the drive out to Bells Bend, he pointed to an area off Briley Parkway where he finds elderberries, which can be made into syrup and tea. “I also found puffballs there last summer,” he said, referring to one of three genera of edible fungi. “Their centers are a scrambled egg substitute.”
No doubt a vacation for Alan is justified, but it won’t come any time soon. In spring, Alan becomes one of the busiest guys in town, tooling around town in his truck full of locally grown produce and fussing at the red lights—because after all, it’s dinner time.
FORAGING CLASS Alan leads an annual foraging class at Beaman Nature Center, which fills up overnight. As a result, Alan is offering a class for Edible readers. If you’re interested, email us at email@example.com.