The Daily Tar Heel

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Monday June 5th

N.C. Black Farmers' Market provides community gathering place, fresh produce

Margo Newkirk (left) and Kiera Gardner (right) run Blend of Soul at the Black Farmers' Market in Durham, NC. Photo courtesy of Samantha Everette.
Buy Photos Margo Newkirk (left) and Kiera Gardner (right) run Blend of Soul at the Black Farmers' Market in Durham, NC. Photo courtesy of Samantha Everette.

The bimonthly Black Farmers’ Market, alternating between Raleigh and Durham, helps Black farmers and small business owners thrive in the face of systemic racism.

The farmers’ market was founded by Ja’Nell Henry, Moses Ochola and Crystal Taylor, community organizers with professional experience in event planning, business consultation and the food industry. 

In conjunction with their mission statement, the Black Farmers' Market works to support and protect Black-owned farms and businesses, which have been historically marginalized through race-based lending discrimination and legal loopholes that prevent land inheritance. 

A safe place

Kendrick Ransome, owner of Golden Organic Farm, began selling his produce at the Black Farmers’ Market this summer. The Raleigh market is over an hour drive from his farm in Edgecombe County, but Ransome said the community is well worth the commute.

He never felt fully welcome at other farmers’ markets with predominantly white organizers and vendors. “They don’t really show love to Black farmers,” he said.

The Black Farmers’ Market, however, was a different story.

“It’s a safe place," Ransome said. "It’s a place where we can come and provide for our people, and that we can keep that dollar circulating in our community. Being able to see people come together on a positive note, on a healthy note, and networking and building community is really inspiring.”

As a fourth-generation farmer, Ransome has deep personal roots in his work and his land, which was originally purchased by his great-great-grandfather.

“I’m very grateful that we were able to continue and to sustain it throughout, you know, a lot of the different eras of torture for Black farmers in America,” he said. “I feel very privileged and honored to be able to keep my family’s land and keep it going."

He said he plans to be back at the Black Farmers’ Market on Sept. 27 in Raleigh. 

Building a legacy

The juice company Blend of Soul is a Black Farmers’ Market vendor with a philosophy of healthy living. 

Co-owners Margo Newkirk and Kiera Gardner said they were inspired to found a juice company after noticing the lack of healthy options at a local food hall. 

“Our goal is to build a legacy within our community, while encouraging a healthy and affordable lifestyle,” Newkirk said.

Her and Gardner’s Black identities have also had a strong influence on their business.

“Food and drink is huge in the Black community,” Newkirk said. “It gives us a sense of comfort that we, even if just for a moment, don’t have to worry about the troubles of the world. We wanted customers to have that same feeling when indulging in our products.”

Blend of Soul will be back at the Sept. 13 market in Durham. 

Your Blackness is Welcome Here

The market’s mission of creating a welcoming space also extends to its customers. A photo on the Black Farmers’ Market Instagram page features a sign that proclaims “Your Blackness is Welcome Here,” in bold, painted letters.

It is a sentiment that junior Kayla Brown said she felt immediately when she attended the market in August. Brown said the market makes her feel good about where her money is going.

“It all feels like a larger sense of community,” Brown said. “I don't get that a lot, I feel, like at UNC, especially since I’m mostly in the theater department, so I’m not around as many Black people.”

Brown said the pandemic in particular has pushed her to support small, local businesses. Masks and social distancing are enforced at the markets, with one-way walking paths marked and a capacity on the number of customers in the space. Brown said these measures helped her and her friends feel safe while shopping.

“I prefer going there just to make sure that I'm helping out my fellow members of the Black community,” she said.  “Especially in times like this when everything is so crazy, and we're still likely to be disadvantaged.”

The next Black Farmers’ Market will be held 1-4 p.m. on September 13, at 411 W. Chapel Hill St., Durham, N.C., 27701. Raleigh will have a market on Sept. 27 from 1-4 pm at the Southeast Raleigh YMCA, 1436 Rock Quarry Rd.

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