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Fall coziness and cordiality at the Black Farmers’ Market

The changing foliage seems eager to announce that fall is once again in full swing in the Triangle. Of course, colorful leaves are not the only treasure that this season in North Carolina has to offer. Fall is a time for fruition after labor and sharing the joy of harvest with family, friends and other kindred spirits. On that note, what beats visiting a farmers’ market with local fall produce as a way of immersing yourself in the beauty of this season?

Smaller and less well-known to Duke students than the Durham Farmers’ Market, the Black Farmers’ Market (BFM) is mission-driven and charming in its own right. 

The first Black Farmers’ Market was held in 2018, as an extension to an initiative called Black August in the Park. “To inspire a self-sufficient community that supports and protects Black farmers and entrepreneurs,” the mission statement reads from the official BFM website. The team behind BFM considers it their primary goals to tackle food apartheid, address healthy living misconceptions and support local Black farmers. BFM works with farmers via a membership system to create a “community-centered space” where everyone can access affordable healthy food.

Due to the 100th anniversary homecoming parade at Hillside High School, Durham BFM’s usual location, the most recent BFM was temporarily relocated to North Carolina Central University. Nevertheless, the market was still bustling during the last half hour before closing. A tent with a DJ was set up on the side for music. Pleasant aromas from baked goods and hand-made soaps spilled over the crisp afternoon air. 

One of the first vendors that came into sight was Diamond’s ROU Soap stand. “Rou” is Afrikaans for “raw,” a fitting name for her soaps that are made with natural materials such as lemongrass, shea butter and lavender. In addition to classic fragrances, ROU Soap has seasonal selections such as “autumn breeze”, “funky fall” and “ghost town.”

A few tents apart stood the tent for Pine Knot Farms, a certified organic farm based in Hurdle Mills, NC. On the table-side lay two trays of small samplers. One of them was warm walnut bread smeared with Pine Knot’s homemade apple butter and the other was “chow chow dip” – a dipping sauce made by Linda, a co-owner of Pine Knot, with the mild vegetable “chow chow” sauce – topped on pita crisp. Made with fresh-grown apples, cinnamon, nutmeg and other ingredients, this jar of apple butter captures the best taste of fall. 

Toward closing time, I asked if I could take one more piece of walnut bread with apple butter. “Take it all,” said Ann, a member of the Pine Knot Team.

Follow the smell of pastries, and visitors will find Zalery’s Cake Studio. They seemed to be popular with customers since scarcely any choices were left at the last half hour. Zalery’s offers a wide variety of cupcakes, desserts and monthly cake specials.

In one of the middle tent aisles stood Jireh Family Farm, a vendor that focuses mostly on meat. Among other products, they currently offer Angus beef, pasture-raised chicken and pasture-raised Thanksgiving turkey. Their meat is available for online ordering and pickup at the farm’s physical location. This farm run by the Jarvis family already has four generations of farmers. One of its newest generation farmers is Camille, who shared the main motivation for their focus on meat.

 “We wanted [start from ourselves] to make sure that we had clean meat and provide everybody else with clean meat,” said Camille.

Around that time, the background music transitioned from hip-hop beats to a soulful chorus and then faded out, signaling the end of this market session. From the music tent came a farewell greeting: “We thank you all for coming out. God bless, and good night.”

The North Carolina Black Farmers’ Markets are held every second Sunday of the month in Durham and every fourth Sunday in Raleigh. The Durham market is at Hillside High School and the Raleigh market is at Southeast Raleigh YMCA. The next Black Farmers’ Market in Durham will be held on Nov. 13. You can help support the Black Farmers’ Market here.

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