In New England, where I was born and raised, a favorite autumn pastime for families is frequenting the local orchards where one can secretly eat apples and pears off of the trees and during lazier days, skip right to the pre-picked fruits and desserts at the orchard’s country-store-meets-bakery. Orchards are a tad bit harder to find in the Research Triangle Area (or perhaps just less accessible to students without cars), and I was looking for a ready substitute for the wholesome, friendly and locally-sourced vibe that I liked about orchards. I found a more than satisfying alternative in the Durham Farmers’ Market. For a handy distillation of all there is to love about Durham, make the short drive or early morning run to Pavilion Park at 501 Foster St., especially constructed through grassroots fundraising for the farmers’ market. 

The market opens every Saturday from 8 a.m. to noon, and although hustling over in the early morning chill and the haze of post-Friday festivities may be difficult, it’s best to get there early for parking.

The market is divided into three major sections. Housed under a corrugated iron, open-air pavilion, the produce vendors offer a variety of fresh leafy greens—kale has been a top seller in the last few weeks—and vegetables from the dizzying array of local farms in the area. Plaid- and woolens-clothed Durhamites purposefully mill about with woven baskets overfilled with freshly baked breads from Loaf, herb-scented lotions from Moondance Soaps & More and strangely delicious jam combinations from Farmer’s Daughter Pickles and Preserves. Vendors who sell goods like baked treats, select cuts of meat, and craft beers from Fullsteam Brewery line the adjacent streets. One can snack at Angels Nest Bakery, which makes variations on an empanada. I enjoy grabbing their apple cider donut hole, sitting on the curb and watching young families mill about the market. In these moments, it’s easy to believe that peace on earth really exists, at least here in Durham.

And then come the food trucks. 

On any given week there are five or six food trucks, each offering a short but delicious menu of quickly prepared foods. From my near-religious attendance to the farmers’ market over the past year, I have found the following to be worth their price and a night of preparative fasting: CJ’s Asian-inspired gourmet food wonders, hand-seasoned smoked bacon biscuits from Porchetta’s, Foster’s on the Fly’s mouth-watering, inventive takes on staple American foodstuffs like fried chicken and imaginative pizzas from Pie Pushers. The market is a microcosm of Durham’s highly-rated, eclectic food scene. 

The best part of the quick jaunt to Pavillion Park is that all of Durham effectively comes to you. Well-known establishments like Foster’s and Mounts, just to name a few, all have food trucks or tables set up at the Durham Farmers’ Market. Everything is produced within in a 70-mile radius of the Durham city limits. Proceed forewarned, however. The farmers’ market is a gateway drug of sorts; once you venture into the farmers’ market scene, you might find yourself spending more and more time off Duke’s campus and in Durham.