The Daily Tar Heel
Printing news. Raising hell. Since 1893.
Sunday, Dec. 3, 2023 Newsletters Latest print issue

We keep you informed.

Help us keep going. Donate Today.
The Daily Tar Heel

Beyond produce: Carrboro Farmers’ Market offers a blend of the arts

Kara Thornton adjusts her booth at the Carrboro Farmers Market on Saturday, Aug. 19, 2023. Selling stoneware at her first Saturday show, Thornton was thrilled to be a part of the tight-knit community generated by the market.

Vendor tents lined the lush green yard of Carrboro Town Commons on Aug. 12, while a musician performed soulful songs to a bustling crowd at the National Farmers Market Week celebration.

At the Carrboro Farmers’ Market, days like this are frequent.

Run by farmers and artisans since its establishment in 1979, the market requires business owners to grow or produce their goods within a 50-mile radius of Carrboro, live within that distance and be on-site to sell.  

The market consists of 75 vendors, including guest vendors who are reconsidered on a yearly basis. Most are farmers, and some have occupied the same space for years — something market manager Maggie Funkhouser believes is important for business. 

“Having a permanent space is really important for customers to be able to find you,” Funkhouser said. “So moving around week to week is not ideal for cultivating your relationships with your shoppers and that sort of thing.”

Craft artisans are invited to the market to showcase their work, which typically includes what Funkhouser refers to as “heritage farm crafts” — goods made from woodworking, welding, quilting and similar processes. 

Some vendors, such as Graham Family Farm, sell these types of crafts along with their produce.

The Pittsboro farm has been a vendor at the Saturday market for 40 years. They are known for their hand-crafted woodworking items such as picnic tables, coat hangers and their most popular item, the cedar chest. 

“That was our main thing for years,” Louis Graham, who runs the farm with his wife and children, said. “I mean, I’m known as the cedar guy. People say, ‘Oh my God, as soon as I got out of the car I could smell your place,’ but for me, I can’t smell cedar anymore.”

He primarily uses eastern red cedar to create his woodworking items and said that about 60 percent of the wood he uses comes from logs on his farm. 

Kara Thornton, the owner of Calvander Co. and a new guest vendor based in Hillsborough, said she sold her modern-style pottery for the first time at the Wednesday market on Aug. 9.

“Everyone was so nice and had a lot of questions and really sweet feedback,” she said. “And it was so cool just to meet a bunch of people.”

Thornton's company specializes in stoneware pottery, but she also salvages secondhand goods and creates handmade pieces like illustrations on stationery. 

Every month during its main season — April through October — the market aims to hold various themed events, such as Strawberry Jamboree, Kids Seedling Day and June in Bloom.

The largest event is Tomato Day, which occurs during the first or second week of July. Attendance can reach up to 6,000 customers in a five-hour window, Funkhouser said. 

Most recently, the market celebrated the 24th annual National Farmers Market Week from Aug. 6 to 12. 

The market hosted numerous activities, such as an educational museum experience about the its history, samplings of in-season fruits and live music by Carrboro-based musician Rob Gelblum on Aug. 12.

Thornton said National Farmers Market Week was imperative for recognizing an emphasis on supporting local, getting to know the community and seeing the grassroots efforts of small businesses, artists and farmers.

“The people, like I said, that were regulars on Wednesdays would say, ‘Oh yeah, I read about you in the newsletter and that you’re a new potter and welcome,'” Thornton said. “And everyone is just so friendly and invested in each other, which was just inspiring honestly.”

On Sept. 2 the market is hosting Carrboro Cookout, which will highlight local meat farmers. There will also be a vendor Halloween costume contest on Oct. 28, where attendees can buy a $1 ticket to vote for their favorite vendor.


To get the day's news and headlines in your inbox each morning, sign up for our email newsletters.

@dthlifestyle |