Just like it does in a healthy diet, produce makes up a large part of North Carolina’s economy. Much of what Tar Heel farmers grow goes out into the wide, wide world, but thanks to our state’s more than 250 registered farmers markets, we can always enjoy the fruits — and vegetables — of our neighbors’ labor. With warm weather finally here, wake up early this Saturday morning, strike out for the one closest to you, and shake hands with the people who making a living off this wonderful land of ours.
Here are five of North Carolina’s more well-known farmers markets, each one offering the freshest produce around. To search for farmers markets near you, click here.
Cobblestone Farmers Market
Now in its seventh season, this market has nearly tripled in size since it was founded by a mother-daughter team. Often called “the prettiest market in the state,” it attracts more than 4,000 visitors on any given Saturday and hundreds even on rainy days. Located downtown, in an area that was the center of market trade 250 years ago, Cobblestone is now the only source of local produce in a one-mile food desert. Every farm is visited and vetted by a representative from the market to ensure that all food is grown sustainably. “No one here is just a hobbyist,” says Margaret Norfleet-Neff, who cofounded the Saturday market with her daughter, Salem. “The vegetables are grown in the Piedmont, and the meat and eggs are all animal-welfare approved. And, of course, it’s gorgeous food.”
Corner of West and Salt streets in Old Salem
Winston-Salem, NC 27101
Olde Beaufort Farmers Market
This coastal market beneath a canopy of live oaks is a place where life slows down so that neighbors can catch up, says Cindy Bunch, executive market manager. On the grounds of the Carteret County Courthouse, visitors gather weekly from April to November to shop for locally grown produce, baked goods, fresh-caught seafood, local meats, and more. “The market is half food, half artisans,” Bunch says. “Our tourists look for handmade art and craftwork to take back home as a reminder of their time here.” Even pets are welcome to stroll through the market, Bunch adds: “At times, we focus on the care of pets, and adoption and rescue of homeless animals.”
Carteret County Historic Courthouse
300 Courthouse Square
Beaufort, NC 28516
Durham Farmers Market
This lively downtown farmers market hosts a free community event every weekend, drawing locals and tourists alike. Located in Durham Central Park, the large, open pavilion welcomes some 4,000 shoppers on summer Saturdays. Even more impressive, this outdoor market typically sees some 2,500 visitors each weekend throughout the year, too. You’ll find kids running to the playground, musicians and families on the market lawn, chefs leading educational demos, more than 65 vendors selling their fresh produce and handmade crafts, and much more. “It truly is a community destination,” says market manager Mary Yost. A commitment to food access and ensuring that everyone has the ability to purchase healthy, local produce are two of the market’s core values.
The Pavilion at Durham Central Park
501 Foster Street
Durham, NC 27701
Foothills Farmers Market
“We are empowering kids to make good food decisions for themselves,” says market manager Carol Maxwell. Children who participate in the market’s educational program, Power of Produce Club, earn $2 tokens to spend at the market. “Kids are encouraged to try two bites of something in exchange for receiving a free token to shop for fruits and vegetables,” Maxwell says. “Squash is sometimes a tough sell for little customers, but we offered it in smoothie form this year, and it was a hit!” All produce is grown within a 50-mile radius of Cleveland County, and farms are visited by Maxwell and others on her team: “I’ve visited an alpaca farm to watch them be sheared, fed baby dairy goats, learned about many varieties of watermelons, measured the sugar content in freshly picked muscadines, inspected varieties of irises, and seen the pride in our farmers’ eyes as they look over the acres they work so hard on every day,” she says.
126 West Marion Street
Shelby, NC 28150
Asheville City Market
North Carolina’s mountains have plenty of local produce vendors, too. Asheville City Market, now in its 10th year, serves as a learning lab for the Appalachian Sustainability Agricultural Project (ASAP), which helps develop opportunities for the region’s farmers. “We give preference to farms that have limited or no access to direct markets,” says market manager Mike McCreary. The market, which has a new location near the Victorian home of Thomas Wolfe, has grown to encompass a full city block downtown. One of the market’s original vendors, Ten Mile Farm, provides more than 40 varieties of vegetables. Fiddler’s Green Farm, a newer vendor, has been able to extend its growing season to year-round, thanks to the market and other ASAP partners.
A grand reopening of the market takes place this month, with special events planned throughout the summer. McCreary calls it a “dream come true” to move to the heart of downtown.
52 North Market Street
Asheville, NC 28801