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Durham Main Season Market: COVID edition

The Durham Farmers' Market is one of the many highlights of Durham's food scene.
The Durham Farmers' Market is one of the many highlights of Durham's food scene.

Saturday mornings on Duke’s campus are usually quiet; these weekend mornings offer a reprieve from the dreaded 8:00 a.m alarms and an opportunity to catch up on sleep. There is one activity, though, that you might consider sacrificing your Saturday morning sleep for — The Durham Farmers’ Market.

Located at 501 Foster Street in the middle of downtown Durham, the Main Season Market opens each Saturday from 8:00 a.m. to 12:00 p.m. until Nov. 21. The booths fill the street and spread into the Pavilion at Durham Central Park, a covered outdoor event space. Immediately after I walked into the market, I felt that sense of a larger Durham community that has been so elusive to Duke students this semester. Being able to interact with the vendors and the community face-to-face made the early morning worth it alone.

For example, one of the highlights of my morning was seeing two employees of Durham’s newest restaurant, Plum, pulling along a wagon full of fresh vegetables from the market and handing out flyers about Plum to passers-by. It was refreshing to see firsthand that restaurants and members of the Durham community rely just as much on the Farmers’ Market as the vendors rely on us. The employees were warm and friendly, and obviously the restaurant plans on using the freshest produce and supporting our local Durham and Chapel Hill vendors in the process.

There were so many amazing products to try there, but I decided to put together a short list of my favorite booths that I visited on Saturday. One of my favorites was called Chocolatay, which sells creative chocolate confections; it’s no wonder that it was one of my favorite booths, since I’m such a big chocolate fan. I bought a Pistachio, Fig & Rose bar, and although it was a bit early in the day for an indulgent treat, it was delicious and different.

The next booth that I visited was MoonDance Soaps & More, where I bought some scented sachets: one that smells like citrus and one that smells like fir trees. These can last for weeks on end and have a powerful smell, perfect for a dorm room or car. I’ve only had the citrus sachet in my dorm for a day, but the scent already fills up the room.

Finally, judging by the length of the line at this vendor, Bluebird Meadows is one of the most popular booths at the Farmers’ Market, and not without reason. While I didn’t purchase anything myself, their handmade sign, decorated with butterflies and flowers, along with their fresh carrots, lettuce and bouquets of flowers looked beautiful.

The Farmers’ Market does not only sell fresh produce, however; many of the vendors sell handmade jewelry, clothing, pottery or baskets.

After perusing all of these booths, one has the opportunity to walk right across the street to the Durham Food Hall, which has options for coffee, seafood, and even flowers and other home decor. While their indoor seating is currently closed, outdoor tables are available so that you might enjoy your food while taking in the Durham weather and the bustle of the market.

You might be wondering how an operation as big as the Farmers’ Market is still operating in the times of COVID-19. I wondered the same thing before I went to the market, but when I arrived I saw the abundance of precautions that the Market was taking in order to protect the vendors and customers. Masks and social distancing were required for every vendor and every visitor to the Market. They also set up a clear path for customers to follow as they shopped, so that traffic was only ever flowing in one direction. Market staff stood by to direct people and enforce mask-wearing and social distancing. Overall, I thought the Market did an excellent job of observing COVID guidelines, especially as cases around the country rise.

On-campus students at Duke only have one Saturday left in Durham, so if you have not gone to the Durham Farmers’ Market yet, consider making the trip this Saturday. Get some coffee or get some fresh produce in order to fuel up for finals!

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