All farmers' markets are not like your farmers' market any more than all cooking is like your mom's cooking. But until you've sampled the alternatives, it can be hard to realize just how different the experience can be. Use this guide to find your kind of market in RTP: the Raleigh, Durham, and Chapel Hill area of central North Carolina. I hope it inspires you to try other markets wherever you are.
I've added side trips for each market, so this is also a green visitors' guide to the Raleigh area.
|summer hours||other hours||organic?||parking||side trip||address|
|Western Wake Farmers' Market||Best for locavores who want a friendly, low-key experience. This low-stress market was founded by moms who wanted better food for their kids. You'll find a great mix of selection, price, and convenience. The excellent vendors and the large South Asian populace of Morrisville and Cary make this a more diverse market than it seems at first glance. Take time to enjoy free cooking demonstrations with samples and to listen to the musicians such as Jo Gore. This is the nearest excellent market to my house, so it is where I usually shop.|
|Sat. 8 - noon.
May-Sept: Tues. 3:30 - 6:30 pm.
|Sat. 8 - noon.||excellent certified organic and green veggies, some spray-free fruit
||free in adjacent part of the parking lot||Enjoy an Indian breakfast at the nearby Cafe Curryleaves after you shop. In October, get lost in the corn maze across the street.||1225 Morrisville Carpenter Rd, Morrisville.
Near the RDU airport and almost in Cary.
|Durham Farmers' Market||Foodie heaven with great farm stands and food trucks. Locavore central, with every item produced by the people selling it, all within 70 miles. Very large selection of organic and conventional produce, crafts, and more. An L-shaped structure of permanent roofs protects you and the vendors in bad weather. In good weather and all summer, the action spills out onto the grass and along adjacent streets. Go early if you don't like crowds; go later for people watching. Music ranges from old-time fiddling to the Durham Street Piano Project. Also look for tables from community projects. Well worth a drive from Raleigh and on its way to becoming the top market in the area.
|Apr-Nov: Sat. 8 - noon.
May-Sept: Wed. 3:30-6:30 pm.
|Dec-Mar: Sat. 10 - noon.||excellent organic and green veggies; some spray-free fruit
||free, in adjacent parking lots||Celebrate Durham's vibrant food-truck scene, which blossoms just across the street.||The Pavilion, 501 Foster Street, Durham.|
|Carrboro Farmers' Market||The funkiest farmers' market in the Triangle, with the richest (and oddest) selection of produce, crafts, and more. Huge selection of organic and conventional produce, crafts, and more. Roof structures shelter everyone in bad weather and a central gazebo draws crowds to canning demos, jugglers, and fun festivals such as Tomatopalooza. This market deserves its national reputation and is worth a stop on a road-trip through the area.|
|Apr-Oct: Sat. 7 - noon.
April-mid-Oct: Wed. 3:30-6:30 pm.
|Nov-Mar: Sat 8-noon.||top-notch selection, including certified organic and uncertified morganic (said to be even purer than required)
||Free in an adjacent parking lot that fills fairly quickly and along the street or in partner parking lots within several blocks.
||Go to Weaver Street Market to finish your green shopping. Enjoy lunch and people watching on the lawn outside this thriving co-op.||301 West Main St., Carrboro. Near Chapel Hill.|
|State Farmers' Market in Raleigh||
Best variety and prices for conventionally grown produce. As the official NC Department of Agriculture farmers' market in the capital city, the Raleigh Farmers' market offers a huge selection of conventionally grown produce, sold retail and wholesale. Competition keeps the prices low and it is open nearly every day. Look for down-home favorites such as "jump up greens" and hand-shelled butter-beans and Pink Lady Peas as well as bitter melons from Hmong farmers. The Farmers Building has permanent roofs that shelter vendors year round, but no walls. Nearly half the area is devoted to plant sales, from tomato seedlings and herbs to rare ornamentals and fruit trees. In the Market Shoppes up the hill, find preserves, cakes, and souvenirs. The bananas up there will remind you that not all the goods in this building come from North Carolina.Want a case of avocados or citrus fruit? Venture into the Truckers Building, but keep an eye out for forklifts.
I come to this market to buy spray-free blueberries and for conventionally-grown peaches, melons, and pumpkins. I relied on it for North Carolina peanut butter during my locavore experiment in 2011. But this huge market is a gem waiting to be modernized. The lone organic vendor lasted only a few months. There are no cooking demonstrations or musicians, although they do have cooking contests for the various produce festivals. Even the restaurants in the complex sell mostly Calabash-style fried seafood or meat-lovers' omelettes, burgers, and streak-o-lean biscuits. I'd love to see this market collaborate with the Culinary Arts program at Wake Technical Community College to showcase healthy, seasonal produce or at least have a restaurant like Angelina's Kitchen.
|Mon-Sat: 5 am - 6 pm.
Sunday 8 am - 6 pm.
|Mon-Sat: 5 am - 6 pm.
Sunday 8 am - 6 pm.
|usually none, but try the salsa-vendor's booth and look for signs for "spray free" blueberries.||Excellent parking. Free in surrounding parking lots.||1201 Agriculture Street, Raleigh. Near NCSU's Centennial Campus and just off I-40.|
|Raleigh Downtown Farmers' Market||
Nestled among high-rise buildings near Memorial Auditorium, this market brings farmers, office workers, and convention visitors together. Enjoy a fine mix of produce, crafts, and fresh flowers, all grown or made by the vendors in North Carolina. It's a great place to meet friends downtown for lunch. I like to get a boxed lunch from the Inter-Faith Food Shuttle's booth, sit at one of the tables provided by the market, and listen to music.
|Late Apr - Oct: Wed: 10 am - 2 pm.
||some certified organic and several green practices||Parking is an expensive nightmare, unless you are already downtown for another reason. I usually pay $5 and walk three blocks. Try parking at Seaboard Station and taking the free R-Line bus, which runs every 10 to 15 minutes.||Walk up the mall to Raleigh City Museum, the History Museum, and fabulous Museum of Natural Sciences. If you parked at Seaboard Station, don't miss Logan's, one of the areas finest nurseries.||400 block of Fayetteville Street Mall, Raleigh.|
|Midtown Farmers' Market||Best for North Raleigh or the efficient shopper. The Midtown Farmers' Market is on a new little "village green" in the re-designed Six Forks Mall area. It leans a little more toward crafts and prepared foods than some of the other markets, but has something for nearly everyone. Enjoy live music and get all your other shopping for the week done at the same time.|
|late Apr - mid Oct: Sat: 8-noon.||fine selection of certified organic and green practices||Park underground in the parking garage and take the escalator up to the farmers' market.||Go to a movie, stop by Target, or visit one of the many local shops in North Hills.||4150 Main at North Hills Street, Raleigh.
Other Fine Farmers Markets in North Carolina's Piedmont
These three markets would be your first pick if you are nearby:
- Chatham Mills Farmers' Market in Pittsboro, every Saturday from 8:00am-1:00pm, mid-April through mid-November. If I had the good fortune to live in Pittsboro, this small market just outside Chatham Marketplace would be my home base.
- Wake Forest Farmers' Market, every Saturday year-round at 150 North White Street, plus Wednesdays from 4 to 7 from May to November. I stop here a few times during strawberry season, on the way back from the Vollmer Farm organic strawberry stand just up the highway. (I see Vollmer is now listed as having a stand at the Wake Forest Farmers' Market.)
- Duke Farmers' Market on the Duke University Campus, open Fridays from 11 to 2 on a schedule that follows the weather and the school year. This small but lively market is convenient for students, faculty, and employees but has no parking for visitors.
What do you look for in a farmers' market? What are your favorites?
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