Carrboro Farmers’ Market

Carrboro Farmers' Market Photo

The Carrboro Farmers Market (CFM) has long been a place where consumers can purchase fresh produce, pastured meat, and homemade prepared foods from local farmers and artisans. Now considered one of the top markets in the South and a model for markets nationwide, the CFM represents a deep and rich historical tradition that continues to serve as a beacon of innovation and inspiration.

Founded in 1979 in partnership with the University of North Carolina’s school of public health, the CFM is one of the oldest farmers’ markets in the state. It is nestled next to the Carrboro Town Hall, barely a mile from the bustling center of the UNC campus. Having grown out of its original location in the 1990s, today the market spans a converted baseball field, where as many as 65 vendors set up shop on Saturdays year-round, as well as every Wednesday during peak season.

Not only are all CFM goods made or grown within a fifty-mile radius, but the market also takes pride in its stipulation that the farmers and artisans themselves vend the goods that they produce. This gives customers the opportunity to establish important relationships with the producers of the foods they consume. The relationships that form between farmer and customer at the CFM often develop into strong friendships, as is the case with longtime market-goers William Friday and Carla Shuford, whose interviews are featured as part of this project.

So what does a typical day at the CFM look like? On Saturdays you can stop by the Eco Farm stand to chat with John Soehner and Cindy Econopouly Soehner and learn about the shiitake mushrooms they cultivate on their farm in Chapel Hill. Then you stroll over to the Peregrine Farm stand and admire Betsy Hitt’s flowers or enter into a conversation with Alex Hitt as he roasts peppers on an open flame. You can grab a slice of Louise Parrish’s famous pound cake to go, or stop by the Pig restaurant’s cart to get an Animal Welfare Approved pork hotdog on a Chicken Bridge Bakery bun.  If you keep an eye open, you will likely see many of Durham, Chapel Hill, and Carrboro’s chefs such as Karen and Ben Barker of Magnolia Grill, Bill Smith of Crook’s Corner, or Matt and Sheila Neal of Neal’s Deli sourcing local ingredients to feature on their menus. And you are more than likely to receive a warm and welcoming smile from the current market manager, Sarah Blacklin, who has fostered the market’s involvement in community outreach and food education.

You can read and listen to oral history interviews with market vendors and customers by browsing the selections below.

Welcome to the Carrboro Farmers’ Market.


Funding from Anson Mills, the South Carolina grower and miller of grains, drives SFA's agricultural oral histories.

Interviews

Lantern Restaurant - Andrea Reusing and Miguel Torres

Andrea Reusing and Miguel Torres

Reusing and Torres are fixtures at the Carrboro Farmers’ Market, shopping weekly and conducting demonstrations for marketgoers at least once per season. Segovia Welsh and her husband, Rob, are also vendors at the Market, selling their Chicken Bridge Bakery bread. Reusing estimates that Lantern sources from forty to fifty local farmers and producers, and many of those relationships began at the Carrboro Farmers’ Market.

Ayrshire Farm - Bill Dow - Carrboro Farmers' Market

Ayrshire Farm

Bill was involved with the Carrboro Farmers’ Market from its early conception, and has always been a staple of the Market community. On Saturdays you will find a variety of organic produce and unique herbs at the Ayrshire Farm stand, and, during blueberry season, you can head out to Ayrshire Farm to pick your own blueberries.

Magnolia Grill - Ben and Karen Barker - Carrboro Farmers Market

Ben and Karen Barker

The husband-and-wife team of Ben and Karen Barker has been serving traditionally inspired, ingredient-driven Southern food at Durham’s Magnolia Grill since 1986, long before restaurants in the area began to call themselves “farm-to-fork.” A native of the North Carolina Piedmont, Ben draws upon childhood memories of his parents’ and grandparents’ culinary techniques and use of farm-fresh vegetables. Karen, a native Brooklynite, has been baking for most of her life and now relishes the chance to pick fresh berries in the summer. The two met on the first day of culinary school and have been cooking together ever since. They are among the Carrboro Farmers’ Market’s most loyal patrons, having built close relationships with many of the farmers. Though Magnolia Grill is consistently lauded as one of the best restaurants in the South and has garnered praise at the national level, the Barkers insist that much of their success lies in the quality of their ingredients.

Crook's Corner - Bill Smith - Carrboro Farmers' Market

Bill Smith

Bill Smith was born in New Bern, North Carolina, in 1949. He grew up with a great appreciation for the simple yet elegant East Carolina fare that his great grandmother cooked. The culinary traditions of his family heavily influenced Bill’s cooking as chef at Crook’s Corner in Chapel Hill, where he has received national acclaim for his innovative twists on traditionally Southern cuisine. In 2010 The James Beard Foundation nominated Crook’s Corner a Best Restaurant in the United States.

Brinkley Farms

Mildred and Abram Brinkley established Brinkley Farms as a tobacco farm in 1941. In 1973 their son William and his wife Dianne took over the basic operation of the farm. William and Dianne were traditional tobacco farmers who have now transitioned to an extensive vegetable production with the help of son Michael and his wife Jennifer. As a child, Michael and his sister would earn their school money by seeding fields and selling the vegetables they grew on the side. They would keep whatever profits they earned for new clothes and school supplies. Michael calls this making money “truck-style.” Michael and Jennifer have a 450-member CSA, which Jennifer organizes, and they sell at the Carrboro Farmers’ Market year-round. Michael’s father is still active on the farm and sells Brinkley Farms product at the Durham Farmers’ Market. They each keep the proceeds they earn at their respective Market.

Cane Creek Farm

A Carrboro Farmers’ Market vendor since 2004, MacLean comes to Market every Wednesday and Saturday with a variety of meats and eggs. She also brings a small selection of fruits and vegetables from her garden, which thrives with the help of plenty of natural fertilizer produced by the Cane Creek menagerie. A single mother of eleven-year-old twins Enid and Quinn, MacLean is a master of multitasking. Between shuttling her children to and from their Quaker school in Durham, she fills restaurant orders, oversees a small team of employees, keeps the animals fed, and makes trips to separate processing facilities for meat and fowl—all while maintaining a sense of humor and a love for her work.

Longtime market shopper, Carla Shuford - Carrboro Farmers' Market

Carla Shuford

Carla Shuford grew up on a farm in the mountains of North Carolina in the 1940s and ’50s. Her father was an early convert to organic farming methods. At age fifteen, Shuford was diagnosed with cancer, and her left leg was amputated. Even after the surgery, doctors gave her a dire prognosis. Shuford began following the Gerson Therapy, a diet based on based on organic fruit and vegetable juices, and her cancer never returned. Fifty years later, she attributes her survival to a produce-centric diet supplemented with whole grains and protein from fish and free-range eggs. A devoted patron of the Carrboro Farmers’ Market since its inception in 1979, Shuford sees the farmers as her medical team, her friends, and her family. She is consistently the first patron to arrive at the Saturday market, where she buys crates of fruits, vegetables, eggs, bread, and grains before the sun has cleared the horizon. As one farmer explains, “There’s early, and then there’s Carla.”

Eco Farm - John and Cindy Soehner - Carrboro Farmers' Market

Eco Farm

Natives of New York State, John Soehner and Cindy Econopouly Soehner moved to North Carolina with their three children in 1994. Eco Farm is located on approximately twelve acres of former tobacco land in the White Cross community, about six miles west of the Carrboro Farmers’ Market. Cindy first joined the Market as a textile artist, but the family soon transitioned to selling produce—and later, meat—on Wednesdays and Saturdays. Eco Farm’s booth is situated on prime Market real estate, adjacent to the main entrance and the gazebo. As such, most marketgoers will pass the booth as they make their rounds. They will admire Cindy’s beautiful flower arrangements and greet John, who has the jovial appearance and manner of a gentle giant. In the fifteen years since they began coming to the Market, John and Cindy have become celebrated fixtures of the Carrboro Farmers’ Market community.

Elysian Fields Farm - Elise Margoles - Carrboro Farmers' Market

Elise Margoles

She maintains a robust CSA of over 100 subscribers and has sold her produce at the Carrboro Farmers’ Market for a decade, first at the Wednesday Market and now on Saturdays as well. Inspired by some of the generation of Triangle farmers who began farming before she did, such as Alex and Betsy Hitt and her neighbor Ken Dawson, Elise now acts as an experienced mentor to her own interns and employees, several of whom are young women hoping to one day start their own farms.

Farmer’s Daughter

Previously a geology scholar, April McGreger found her way into the professional kitchen by way of making pastries at Chapel Hill’s Lantern Restaurant. Following several years as pastry chef, April returned to her culinary roots of pickling, preserving and bringing to market seasonal and local farm-driven food under the Farmer’s Daughter Brand. April grew up in a rural Mississippi sweet potato farm family and learned the traditional art of preserving and baking at the elbow of her mother and grandmother. She sells a variety of products at the Carrboro Farmers’ Market, but is most well-known for her baked goods, Southern-style preserves, chutneys, and lacto-fermented vegetables, including real sauerkraut and authentic kimchi and barrel-fermented, deli-style pickles.

Carrboro Farmers' Market - Kelly Clark, supporter and volunteer

Kelly Clark

A local entrepreneur in the printing industry since 1981, Kelly began shopping at the Carrboro Farmers’ Market in the late 1980s. A self-described Carrboro Market fanatic, she has shopped, kept a journal of purchases, volunteered, and been a staff member of the Market for nearly 25 years. Kelly has one of the longest and deepest relationships with the Market and its producers. Having moved from her home in Nebraska to the Chapel Hill area, it was the Carrboro Market that finally gave her the sense of community she was missing after she left her home in Lincoln.

Louise's Old-Fashioned Baked Goods - Louise Parrish - Carrboro Farmers' Market

Louise’s Old-Fashioned Baked Goods

Louise fondly remembers her mother’s cooking and baking and drew inspiration from her mother’s culinary knowledge to start Louise’s Old-Fashioned Baked Goods. Louise has been an artisan vendor and baker at the Carrboro Farmers’ Market for 21 years. Her pound cakes are known and revered by many market-goers.

Maple Spring Gardens

A native of Farmville, Virginia, Ken Dawson’s family moved around a lot during his childhood years. However, Ken would spend nearly every summer, starting at a young age, on his grandparents’ farm in Spring Garden, Virginia, which strongly nurtured his love of farming. Ken engaged with a vibrant community of young people who were living off-the-land in the 1970s and tried his hand at many jobs before settling into farming. One of Ken’s many contributions to the Carrboro Farmers’ Market was the diversification of products in the mid 1980s, broadening the traditional offerings with eggplants and kales, for example. Ken was a long-time member of the Carrboro Farmers’ Market board of directors, and has served as President of the Market.

Matt & Sheila Neal

Since 2008, Matt and Sheila Neal have operated Neal’s Deli in downtown Carrboro, just a stone’s throw from the Carrboro Farmers’ Market. They serve breakfast and lunch six days a week and are known for their house-made pastrami, which is even available on a breakfast biscuit. In the three and a half years since it opened, Neal’s has become a favorite daytime dining option for students, professionals, families, and other members of the Chapel Hill-Carrboro community, who flock there for the biscuits, sandwiches, hot dogs, and farmers’ market sides. Though Neal’s offers coleslaw and potato salad year-round, other side-dish options change frequently based on what’s available at the Carrboro Farmers’ Market. This could include anything from marinated okra and tomatoes in the summer to butternut squash in the chillier months. And their connection to the Market runs deep: Sheila was the Market’s first full-time manager from 2004 to 2007, and Matt’s father, the late chef Bill Neal, was a celebrated proponent of local and seasonal Southern flavors and often stocked the pantry at Crook’s corner with Market-sourced ingredients.

Oakleys of Chatham County

Marjorie Oakley was one of the original organizers of the Carrboro Farmers’ Market. She has sold produce at the Market since 1979. The Oakleys have been long-time farmers in Chatham County. Marjorie sells vegetables including purslane and Jerusalem artichokes, greens and cut flowers. The flowers are often native plants that are growing on the family land, and the vegetables are grown without the benefit of irrigation. Marjorie always had advice to offer market-goers regarding the health benefits of her vegetables.

Peregrine Farm - Alex and Betsy Hitt

Peregrine Farm

Originally a pick-your-own berry business, Alex and Betsy Hitt began selling at the Carrboro Farmers’ Market in 1986, encouraged by a neighbor and Market member, George Graves. Betsy is an extraordinary cut-flower grower and Alex is a stand-out in sustainable growing practices for vegetable production. Part of the early wave of young, full-time farmers who joined the Market in the mid-1980’s, Alex and Betsy have continually brought new colors and flavors to the Market, as well as a passion for their work that is translated in the endless hours they contribute to farm and flower organizations. Nationally recognized as leaders in the small farm movement, Alex and Betsy have trained and educated many young farmers who now sell at the Market.

Pine Knot Farms

The unincorporated community of Hurdle Mills, North Carolina, lies thirty miles north of the Carrboro Farmers’ Market. It is there that Stanley Hughes and his family—including his teenage daughter, Xandria, and his wife, Linda Leach—maintain Pine Knot Farms. This land, over one hundred acres of it, has been in the Hughes family for nearly a century. It is the land he grew up on. Stanley follows in the tobacco-farming tradition of his father, uncles, and grandfather, but in the last 15 years he has transitioned his tobacco crop to certified organic. In addition to the tobacco, Stanley also grows certified organic fruits and vegetables, which he sells through CSA shares, directly to area restaurants, and at both the Carrboro and Durham Farmers’ Markets.

Sarah Blacklin

Sarah values the community spirit that the Carrboro Farmers’ Market fosters among market customers, chefs, farmers, and artisan vendors. She constantly seeks to support Market community and share the collective culinary knowledge of the Market with the surrounding neighborhoods.

William Friday

William Friday was born in the Shenandoah Valley, Virginia, in 1920. He grew up working in his grandfather’s country store, which sold a variety of item such as high-button shoes, broad-rim hats, chewing tobacco, and large wheels of cheese. In the summers of his youth, he and his three brothers would return to the Valley of Virginia and work as farmhands, shearing sheep, shucking wheat, and tending to their grandfather’s store.

Wilma’s Garden

Wilma is the senior member of the Carrboro Farmers’ Market. She and her then-husband, Jack, were original members of the Market in 1978. Wilma grew up in the Midwest, where she helped her family in growing nearly all of their own food. She says she made her first gardening mistake when she was two, as she pulled up her mother’s pine tree plants instead of the ragweed. After 21 years as a research analyst in the Biology Department at the University of North Carolina, Wilma gardens full time, living a hard-scrabble life north of Hillsborough, North Carolina. She is full of folk-wisdom and has many interesting stories for her customers regarding the use and cultivation of plants.