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With emphasis on familial ties, Duke Farmers Market provides food, comfort to hospital community

<p>Bags of apples sit at a Duke Farmers Market booth.</p>

Bags of apples sit at a Duke Farmers Market booth.

On the Duke Medical Center Greenway lies one of the University's hidden treasures — the Duke Farmers Market. It has become a hub for farm-to-table experiences, all of which highlight local North Carolina delicacies.  

Sponsored by LIVE FOR LIFE, Duke’s employee wellness program, the market is held on Thursdays from 11 a.m. to 2 p.m. from late spring to the end of September. Health Promotion Specialist Brian Zelanko and Health Education Specialist Sara Cathey are spearheading the program.

To increase employee wellness, the initiative has five key components: food and nutrition, mental and emotional wellbeing, physical activity and movement, fulfillment and purpose and environment and culture.  

The Duke Farmers Market provides a unique offering to students by connecting them with local family-owned vendors. According to Zelanko, each vendor is fresh, locally owned and operated and undergoes an application process by a procurement team that screens the products.

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A booth setup at the Duke Farmers Market.

Zulia Bakery, owned by Venezuelan Angelica Medina, exemplifies the initiative's connection to familial heritage. 

Amanda Furstone, a sales associate for the bakery, described how her boss “puts love in each one of her loaves for the company” despite having no bakery front. The bakery sells at 12 farmers markets every day, with each traditional rollup made from scratch. 

Oberweis Dairy has been family-run since 1927 and has been serving the Triangle area for nearly a decade, according to sales associate Dan Jannsen. 

They only partner with family farms to bring customers fresh milk, ones that are “48 hours from the cow to your front door.” 

The farmers market’s food trucks further exhibit the influence of culture and familial heritage in their food offerings.

Fiori Trattoria, NC Bulkogi, Poblanos Tacos and Sister Liu’s Kitchen are four of the rotating food trucks at the farmers market each week.

Connecting people to Chinese dishes, Sister Liu’s Kitchen makes homestyle family recipes, which include dumplings, noodles, fried rice, Chinese burgers, buns and house-made fruit tea.  

Founded by the So family in 2009, NC Bulkogi, the Korean fusion food truck, has its own family-oriented story, drawing in many customers to try their takes on Korean street food.  

The company experienced a small hiatus due to an illness in the family in 2014. 

The Harvest Church community, under the leadership of Joe Choi, Shinae Lee and the rest of the Bulkogi Truck team, helped the company save the business and preserve the old menu while initiating a new youth ministry.  

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Oliver Pau, founder of Dojo Fresh, standing at his Duke Farmers Market booth.

Furstone recounts how the Duke Hospital helps a lot of people, many of whom may be going through difficult times. Yet the farmers market, with its familiar faces, brings a sense of comfort to hospital goers. 

Despite the emphasis on Duke employees, Zelanko emphasized that the program and its offerings are accessible to students.  

“While we primarily focus on the wellness aspects and health aspects for employees, this is literally in the students' backyard," Zelanko said. "Even when they're just going from one class to another, or maybe they don't have class, they can stop over here."   


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