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The best farmers’ markets in the Triangle: Where to go and what to get

The idea of waking up at 7:30 on a Saturday morning did not initially appeal to me, but as soon as I started my trek to the Durham Farmers’ Market through the fall foliage with my many tote bags in hand, my main character morning had started, and I never thought twice about how early it was.

Durham Farmers’ Market: 501 Foster St, Durham, NC 27701

Hours: Saturday 8am-12pm

Strong Arm Baking Co.: Bakery based in Oxford, NC

After wandering around Durham Farmers’ Market and not knowing where to start, I was drawn to the line of over twenty people at Strong Arm Baking Co. As soon as I got close enough to their tent to smell all the fresh baked goods, I understood the growing crowd of people. Although they are known for their breads, I opted for their chocolate croissants and molasses ginger cookies to satisfy my sweet tooth. And let me tell you, scrumptious does not even come close to describing these treats. I would come here for breakfast every day if I could, and clearly so would every other person in line. This has to be at the top of your list next time you make it to Durham Central Park on a Saturday morning. 

Fricks Farms & Apiaries: Honey farm based in Chapel Hill, NC

As an avid tea drinker who was running low on her favorite sweetener, I was so excited to see Fricks Farms’ table topped with jars of golden, raw wildflower honey. Family operated and environmentally friendly, Fricks runs their business with the principles of “living simply and spreading kindness,” according to their website. If you are looking for a sweetener like I was or a tasteful addition to a charcuterie board, check out the local honey from Fricks Farms & Apiaries. Plus, you can get beeswax candles to match!

Boxcarr Handmade Cheese: Cheese manufacturer based in Cedar Grove, NC

With charcuterie on my mind after visiting the Fricks Farms booth, I quickly found my way over to the line of cheeses displayed on Boxcarr’s table. As a cheese-lover but by no means a connoisseur, I asked Austin Genke, co-founder of the sibling-run operation, for his recommendation. After taking me down the line of cheeses, he pulled out a block of “Cottonbell:” their cheese that has one Best of Show at the 2019 NC state fair. This brie-like cheese is as dreamy as it is creamy. I think it tastes even better knowing the milk is locally sourced and the cheese is handmade. 

Perkins Orchard: 5749 Barbee Rd, Durham, NC 27713

Hours: Everyday 9am-8pm

As my Uber veered off into the Durham suburbs, I feared I would be dropped off in a stranger’s front yard and left to fend for myself with nothing but a hunk of cheese and a half-eaten croissant. I was, in fact, dropped off in a stranger’s front yard. Only upon my descent of the driveway did I uncover the largest and oldest produce market in central North Carolina: Perkins Orchard.

Owner Donovan Alexander Watson took over his grandfather’s fruit stand back in 2004 when he was only ten years old. After years of Watson’s entrepreneurship and dedication to small farms, Perkins Orchard is now celebrating their 51st season. Collecting the best products from 300 farmers and 16 orchards across 12 states all into his backyard, Watson has established a name for himself and his family business. 

The most popular item of his business would be Watson’s $20 bag deal, where you can fill up a fourth of a bushel with any and all produce of your choosing. With my own bag in hand, I first turned to the rows of apples, choosing any variety that I did not recognize, and continued on, wandering through the rest of the three-acre property.

“I do not nickel and dime my customers,” said Watson, when he handed me a complementary jug of fresh apple cider to go along with my bag stuffed full of apples, grapes, pears, peppers, and just about anything else I could fit. This gesture, which he extends to all of his customers, exemplifies his devotion to connecting with his customers and spreading the love that comes with farm-fresh anything.

Built from the grounds of small-town charm and southern hospitality, Perkins Orchard is a breath of fresh air from bustling campus life and will serve anyone well who is looking for the freshest seasonal produce year-round and maybe even a Christmas tree this holiday season!

Chapel Hill Farmers’ Market: 201 S Estes Dr, Chapel Hill, NC 27514

Hours: Saturday 9am-12pm, Tuesday 3-5pm

Sour Bakery: Bakery based in Graham, NC

An alumna of the Culinary Academy in San Francisco, Janee Allen fell in love with baking breads when living in California and Seattle with husband, Knowles. Since moving to the Triangle, the Allen’s sourdough culture has grown alongside their budding business as Janee has continued to experiment with different recipes. From their best-selling breads to pastries and crackers, everything is made from sourdough – which is really unique in the bakery scene. I snagged myself some crackers to contribute to my charcuterie board. Between my friends and I, each box was quickly consumed with no crumbs left behind! 

Piri: Black soul food kitchen based in East Durham, NC

I had the pleasure of chatting with Courtney, co-owner of Piri with her sister Erika, who described to me the essence of Piri:

“We’re just a small black-woman-owned business. We want to highlight farms, specifically black and brown farms … some of the folks who get left out of the conversation around local food.”

From recipes passed down from their great-grandmother to those Courtney adapted from culinary school, Piri presents seasonal comfort food made from local produce they buy from the other farmers’ market stands! I got their mac and cheese and rosemary mashed potatoes for the Recess potluck – both of which were crowd favorites and should be everyone’s potluck staples.

You can find Courtney and Erika with Piri at the Chapel Hill and Durham farmers’ markets on alternating Saturdays. 

Whether you are looking to build a cheese board, to support local business or just to explore the Triangle, going to the different farmers’ markets is one of the best ways to do so! I met so many kind vendors who are passionate about what they do and are eager to share it with others. 

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