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Durham Farmers' Market Presents an Old Classic, Fresh for Your Table

By David Boegaard

The Durham Farmers' Market, located in the Pavilion of Durham Central Park, is one of the region's premier farmer's markets. With 77 stalls occupied by local growers and producers of local products, the Durham Farmers' Market offers a cornucopia of fresh, local produce and other locally made goods. The Durham Farmer's Market is dedicated to creating connections between local businesses and farmers and the broader community.

Durham Farmers' Market got its start nearly 20 years ago, starting as a partnership with SEEDS, a local, sustainable agriculture group. Since then, the Farmer's Market has progressively outgrown a variety of locations, finally settling in the new Pavilion in Central Park.

Farmers' Markets create a remarkable bonds of community. "Farmers' Markets are important to have in every town or city because they directly connect consumers with the producers of their food," says Jenny Elander, the Market Manager for the Durham Farmers' Market. "This allows the community to come together over food in a much more personal way, and gives the customer direct access to education about what they are purchasing."

And farmers' markets like the Durham Market have many benefits beyond creating community goodwill. A primary goal of the Durham Market is to help community members access healthy produce for all classes of people. In order to facilitate this goal, the Market has recently begun accepting SNAP/EBT, and even offers a matching program up to $10. "We work in close partnership with the Durham Department of Public Health to get the word out and ensure that our market serves and nourishes the whole community in Durham," says Elander.

One way that the Durham Farmers' Market distinguishes itself is by offering an excellent selection of fresh, local produce year-round. The emphasis here is on LOCAL. The Market is a producer-only market, meaning only farmers and producers are permitted to sell. Not only that, but the Market requires that all produce come from a 70 mile radius. That's truly local!

Of course, restricting the market to local producers limits the available variety according to the growing season and locale. Vegetables are on offer in incredible variety, from heirloom tomatoes to peppers to greens. Fruits are harder to come by, due to the climate and soil of the Durham region. While exotic fruits like pineapples are never available, the Market has a tremendous variety of seasonal fruits like berries, melons and peaches.

Eating with the seasons ensures that customers only consume the freshest produce. But it also creates a way of appreciating life and it's changes. "Strawberry and blueberry season are always really exciting because they only last for a month or two," Elander mentions, "so it is something that you wait for the whole year."

People come to the Durham Farmers' Market to experience the community, and they keep coming because fresh produce is so intensely delicious. Deliciousness is only one of the benefits of fresh vegetables and fruits. Local produce is also healthier, says Elander. "The longer a fruit or vegetable is off the vine or out of the ground before it is eaten, the less nutrients it will give you."

A robust farmer's market like the Durham Farmers' Market doesn't just make a wide variety of fresh, local food available. It also creates a relatively efficient market for produce and handcrafted goods, eliminating middle-men. This makes good economic sense for producers and consumers, both. "Farmers' Markets also have an incredible impact on the local economy and the businesses nearby," notes Elander.

As part of the initiative to improve food freshness and reduce transport waste, the Durham Farmers' Market has teamed up with local chefs. "In addition to shopping from our farmers every week for their menu items, we work closely with the local chefs to hold demonstrations during the market," says Elander. "This helps to engage the public with produce in a new way, and shows them just how incredible it can taste!"

The Durham Farmers' Market is a community, a path to healthy eating, and a wonderful source of the best tasting foods. "I think as a culture we've grown accustomed to non-stop availability of fruits and vegetables, which makes us more disconnected and leads to us taking those things for granted." Elander suggests. "We have traded flavor, quality, and nutrition for longer shelf life and appearance." For Durham residents, breaking that cycle is as fun and easy as making a weekly trip down to the Durham Farmers' Market.

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