By James Johnson
Farmer’s markets are nothing new to North Carolina, as there have been farmers selling their goods directly to consumers for as long as there have been farms. But in urban areas like Fayetteville, these markets are experiencing a resurgence and are putting big chain grocery stores on notice.
For the uninitiated, a farmer’s market is a location where one can buy fruit, vegetables, meat, cheese and baked goods directly from local farmers. Benefits can include better prices, and knowing one’s money is going directly into their own community. The downside, however, is that often these markets aren’t open year-round. Also, as they don’t have much in the way of an advertising budget, it can be hard to know their operating hours or where they can be found. (When in doubt, ask a hipster.)
To help combat that problem, we are highlighting a few of the farmer’s markets in our area.
City Market at the Transportation and Local History Museum
Hours: Saturdays, 9 a.m. - 1 p.m.
Downtown Fayetteville has been home to the City Market for about eight years, and according to coordinator Heidi Bleazey, its growth has shown no sign of slowing down.
“We have a lot of craft vendors, great produce, lots of jewelry, handmade crafts and occasionally some food trucks,” Bleazey said. “Some of our vendors have been here all eight years.”
The market is held on the grounds of the Fayetteville Area Transportation and Local History Museum, at 325 Franklin Street, and is at its most active between the months of April and January (though some vendors operate year-round).
“It is something to promote downtown, to have something going on down here. We have agriculture items in the museum, so to me, it was a natural fit,” said Bruce Daws, director of the museum. “It is just a program of the museum. We do not charge for vendor space. It is to raise awareness.”
Thanks to that relaxed atmosphere, it can be hard to predict what one will find when attending the market. According to Bleazey, regular attendees will notice trends.
“Kale is kind of coming up a lot. Peaches. Everyone has been asking about peaches,” Bleazey said. “This year, I don’t know. I don’t know if it is going to be squash that’s a big seller. Okra here will sell out … Cold-brew coffee is a hit here in the fall.”
Dirtbag Ales Farmers Market
Hours: Sundays, 10 a.m. - 2 p.m.
Deep in the heart of every artisan brewer is a foodie who knows that the best stuff often comes directly from the source, whether it be a good beer or freshly picked veggies.
The Dirtbag Ales Farmers Market is the result of the combined efforts of Dirtbag Ales and Taproom, a brewery in Hope Mills, and the environmental nonprofit organization Sustainable Sandhills.
The Dirtbag Ales Farmers Market operates at the brewery’s new site at 5423 Corporation Drive, in Hope Mills, and is active from April 1 until November 18. These dates are subject to change next year.
“It has been a great partnership, and has really done a lot for the community,” said Hannah Swartz, the market’s manager and representative for Sustainable Sandhills.
“Our market has great atmosphere to it,” she said. “We have live music, we have a variety of vendors, produce, jams, honeys, goat cheese, and it gives you a chance to shop for local products at an affordable price. As well as a chance to spend an afternoon outside in your community.”
This is the first year that the market has been open but Swartz says they have already seen a huge growth in their attendance.
“We started really small, with about 10 vendors, and a few people trickling in. Now we probably have a consistent 400 people who come out to the market and about 25 vendors every weekend,” Swartz said. “It is definitely a bustling market now.”
Swartz believes that the farmer’s market is not only great for consumers, but also great for the environment, as farmer’s markets discourage factory farming.
“Sustainable Sandhills is all about local foods, clean energy, clean air, green businesses, and those sorts of things,” she said. “Pretty much, just trying to save the planet. Someone’s gotta do it.”
Murchison Road Community Farmers’ Market
Hours: Wednesday, 10 a.m. - 2 p.m.
This short-season market, open from early June to the last Wednesday in October in Bronco Square, is a hybrid of a farmers’ market, a town square and a community resource.
The market started when four Fayetteville State University students sought to alleviate the “food desert” in the Murchison Road area community. With grants from the Ford Motor Company via Ford HBCU Community Challenge (Start-up Award), the USDA Farmers Market Promotion Program and the City of Fayetteville, they founded the Murchison Road Community Farmers’ Market.
The market works with farmers from Cumberland County and elsewhere in the state to bring fresh produce to residents who have limited access to such products. The Fayetteville State University Development Corporation also provided support.
The market promotes healthy living in other ways. Every second Wednesday of the month of the market’s operation, community groups and service providers come to bring information on wellness and healthcare directly to market customers. Blood pressure, blood sugar, and other simple but important screenings are available as is information on heathy cooking, legal assistance, continuing education and other resources. Occasionally local chefs stop in for cooking demonstrations using the produce that is available that day from the market.
“It’s an honor and pleasure to serve the community on behalf of Fayetteville State University and continue the dream of the four students who wanted to give to the community around Fayetteville State.” said Julius Cook, the market’s general manager and an MBA graduate of FSU’s Broadwell College of Business and Economics.
Other farmers’ markets and product stands in the area include:
1010 Marlborough Rd, Fayetteville.
Hours: Monday - Saturday, 9 a.m. - 6 p.m.