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The Daily Tar Heel

The Carrboro Farmers' Market celebrates 20 years at Town Commons

Kevin Meehan, a vendor at the Carrboro Farmer's Market, explains his scale at his booth. He sells homegrown produce from Turtle Run, his farm in Saxapahaw, NC.
Kevin Meehan, a vendor at the Carrboro Farmer's Market, explains his scale at his booth. He sells homegrown produce from Turtle Run, his farm in Saxapahaw, NC.

For Shannon Harvey, global relations assistant at UNC Global, the market is more than a place to get produce every week — it’s where she and her husband got married.

“We were new here, so we invited everyone that we knew and said just come down to the farmers’ market,” she said. “We just set up in the middle and had a little ceremony.”

The market has played a big role in other local families’ lives too.

Pam Oakley, a third-generation farmer from Chatham County and a vendor at the market, said her family has been there since the start.

“My mother actually worked with the federal government to get small farmers’ markets started way back in the ‘70s,” Oakley said. “Back when it was first proposed to use this land there was some controversy, if you want to call it that, because of the expensive land that it was.”

The market’s story began in 1977, when a group of farmers worked with the North Carolina Agricultural Marketing Project and the town of Carrboro to establish the Chapel Hill-Carrboro Farmers’ Market on Roberson Street. The market moved to its current location in 1996.

Oakley and her mother sell flowers, fruits, vegetables and hand-painted vases at their stand, Grandma’s Garden.

“My grandmother, she was again one of the original sellers and she was probably the first, or one of the first ones, that started selling flowers,” Oakley said. “I ventured out a little bit with the vases.”

At the Carrboro Farmers’ Market, you can find seasonal produce grown within a 50-mile radius of Carrboro as well as crafts and canned goods — all sold by the farmers or farm owners themselves.

“A lot of people like to come to see the person that is directly connected with the farm,” Oakley said.

She said people come to the market as a social outing, even bringing their young children.

Carrboro Board of Aldermen member Bethany Chaney said the market is an important part of the community’s food system.

“It’s a terrific connection between the food system and people, which is important to the people of Carrboro and Orange County,” she said.

The market is open on Wednesday afternoons from April to November and on Saturday mornings year-round.

Chaney said the town of Carrboro is working to renovate the market’s space to make room for more vendors and to improve handicap accessibility.

“The town is going to embark on a Town Commons re-design with the farmers’ market in mind,” she said.

Oakley said the market has dealt with disagreements over parking and between old and new farmers in the past, but on the whole, things flow well.

“For the most part, I think everybody here works together,” she said. “It’s like children or brothers and sisters — we’re a family.”


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