What started as one UNC graduate student’s project has now become a cornerstone event of the community. The Carrboro Farmers' Market will be celebrating their 40th season this weekend with over 75 local vendors and a mini-museum.
The market began as an endeavor called the North Carolina Agricultural Marketing Project as a platform for local farmers to share fresh produce with members of the community. Molly Vaughan, the market’s manager, said the market had 68 farmers and artisans in its first season.
Though the number of vendors hasn’t grown immensely, Vaughan said the market community has grown and changed in other ways. The market is now known for its special events which began in 1996 when Carrboro built a shelter for the event. Special events like tastings and the upcoming mini-museum take place in the gazebo.
Besides shopping for local produce, people can get involved with the mini-museum by sharing their stories. Vaughan said the mini-museum will include a timeline of the most significant events throughout the history of Carrboro Farmers' Market. A segment called “My Market Memories” will allow the community to document their own favorite moments at the market.
Vaughan said the staff has also changed since the market’s opening.
“There was no manager or official rules when it first started,” she said.
Now, there is a board of directors consisted entirely of members of the market. One vendor, Eliza MacLean, is the owner of Cane Creek Farm and said the involvement of the farmers makes the Carrboro Farmers' Market unique.
All farmers and business owners will be present at their stands to sell directly to the community. Vaughan said this is a foundational policy of the market.
“This creates something for the customer that’s unique,” MacLean said. “A conversation with the producer of their food.”
MacLean said that this conversation has made an impact on a larger scale.
“Larger grocery store chains like Whole Foods and Weaver Street Market realized that local, sustainable and organic products were catching on,” MacLean said.
Cane Creek Farms has been involved with the Carrboro Farmers' Market for 14 seasons and MacLean said it’s a unique opportunity for a small-scale producer. She said the market caters to relationship-based marketing strategies.
“Knowing your customers, them knowing you, knowing your stories.” MacLean said. “It’s been a good community-oriented atmosphere for my kids to grow up in.”
Marty Hanks, head beekeeper and founder of Just Bee Apiary, is another vendor whose family is largely involved with the Carrboro Farmers' Market. Hanks and his family have been members of the market for four years. He said the market provides an authentic feeling that’s different from other farmer’s markets.
For Hanks, the market is both a learning and teaching experience.
“It gave me the opportunity to learn about local farming,” Hanks said. “And I get a platform and opportunity to share my knowledge about bees.”
MacLean said she wants people to know that this is not a typical market.
“We’re still growing strong in our 40th year,” MacLean said. “We still have people that are original founders and members, as well as some of the best young farmers I’ve ever seen.”
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