photograph by Sara Brennan

The Essential North Carolina Grocery List — Food feeds our memories: Hearty country breakfasts. Backyard cookouts. Sunday suppers. Regardless of the occasion, every feast, meal, and snack begins the same: with a grocery list and a trip to the market. To make a meal of these North Carolina favorites, you’d need to travel from the Mountains for Mills River Creamery milk, through the Piedmont for a few staples, to Wrightsville Beach for chicken salad from Roberts Grocery. Sure, the trip would take all day — at least — but it’d be so worth the time spent.

Stars still glittered in the early-morning sky as Garland McCollum stood in line at the Greensboro Farmers Curb Market. It was 2:30 a.m., and he had already made the 45-minute drive from his farm in Madison to get a table for Saturday’s market. Even so, someone from another farm new to the market was already there. “No matter what time I got up and left for the market, they always beat me,” Garland says, laughing. “They were always first in line.” 

That was back in 2008, when Massey Creek Farms made its first appearance at the curb market. Now, they’re considered an annual vendor — no more waiting in line before the rooster crows — and customers flock to their table for pork, lamb, and, most of all, eggs. 

At Massey Creek Farms in Rockingham County, chickens spend most of their lives grazing in the fields, out in the open air. All of the animals here are pasture-raised, meaning not only are the chickens happier, but their eggs are healthier — higher in vitamins and nutrients, and lower in cholesterol — and tastier, too. New Massey Creek customers get a few eggs for free, but they always come back for more. “We’ll give you that first taste, and then you’re hooked!” Garland says.

Since before he could read, Garland was flipping through the pages of Progressive Farmer, dreaming of the day he would be a farmer himself. He grew up spending summers with his grandparents on their farm in Rockingham County — one that has been in the family since 1749. After starting out as a commercial hog farmer in the ’80s, Garland made the switch to small-scale, independent farming in 2008. “That’s all I ever wanted to do,” he says. “I always had in my mind that I wanted to work with animals.”

Now, Massey Creek eggs make their way from that same farm into restaurants, grocery stores, and farmers markets from Bermuda Run to Pittsboro — close enough for Garland and his wife, Ruby, to personally deliver them to the stores and restaurants they supply. “Eggs as fresh as ours,” Garland says, “are not your typical grocery store eggs.”

And because the McCollums are so close to their customers, the eggs are always delivered fresh throughout the Piedmont: Just-laid eggs go from chicken to store to western omelet or eggs Benedict in just a day. 

The Essential North Carolina Grocery List: Chicken Salad

Massey Creek Farms
210 Massey Creek Road
Madison, NC 27025
(336) 427-7030

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Katie King is the assistant editor at Our State.