Local farmers markets are more than just fun, they’re a homegrown solution to food deserts, which are (usually low-income) urban areas where residents must travel long distances to purchase fresh, nutritious food at an affordable price. Food deserts exist across the county, state and country.
If you do have access to fresh food, shopping at farmers markets is still a smart choice, as the produce will likely be fresher than what you could purchase at a typical grocery store. Supporting farmers markets also reduces the use of fossil fuels needed to transport supermarket produce around the world, and it’s a way to directly invest in the local economy.
More than just investing dollars, farmers markets offer the unique opportunity to invest in community – to get to know the people growing the food you purchase. You can ask about their growing methods and learn about why they might choose to go 100 percent organic versus simply pesticide- and herbicide-free. You can even ask to visit the grower’s farm, and in many cases, you’ll get a yes.
Here is a brief list of some of the many farmers markets in the area to get you started.
Murchison Road Community Farmers Market
• 1047 Murchison Rd. (North section of Bronco Square parking lot, in front of Fayetteville State University Bookstore)
• Wednesday, 10 a.m.-2 p.m., through October
This market was established in 2014 by four Fayetteville State University Business School students. These students applied for and received grants to start a farmers market when neighborhood markets in the Murchison Road area closed, creating a food desert. Grants came from the Ford Motor Company via the Ford HBCU Community Challenge (Start-up Award), the USDA Farmers Market Promotion Program and the city of Fayetteville. SNAP (formerly known as food stamps) is accepted at this market.
The second Wednesday of each month (July 11, Aug. 8, Sept. 12 and Oct. 10) is Healthy Wednesday. Community and service organizations are invited to share information about healthy lifestyle choices. Simple but important screenings, like testing blood pressure and blood sugar levels, are provided free that day. Participating organizations include Cumberland County Department of Social Services, CC Department of Public Health, Cape Fear Valley Health System, FSU Student Health Services, Community Health Interventions and Miller-Motte College.
Local chefs also visit on Healthy Wednesdays and provide cooking demonstrations using the produce that is available that day from the market.
Other agencies that offer services to improve lifestyle are also invited to Healthy Wednesdays: Legal Aid of North Carolina, Fayetteville Technical Community College, The Salvation Army, American Red Cross and Fayetteville Police Crime Prevention and the Fayetteville Fire Department.
Participating vendors selling goods include:
• Spence Family Farm, Spring Lake. Fresh farm in-season produce.
• Cape Fear Botanical Garden, Fayetteville. Garden-grown vegetables and potted plants.
• John Parker, Parker’s Ten Acre Farms, Cedar Creek. Pork products, chicken, eggs from open range chickens.
• Ms. Cherry’s Baked Goods, Hope Mills. Baked items, like cakes, brownies and cookies.
• 3BrotherLemonade Stand, Fayetteville. Fresh, made-from-scratch lemonade.
• Rhonda Jackson, Cumberland County. Homemade soaps.
City Market at the Museum
• 325 Franklin St., outside the Fayetteville Area Transportation and Local History Museum
• Saturday, 9 a.m.-1 p.m., year-round
Founded in 2012, City Market at the Museum is a treasure in the heart of downtown Fayetteville. Vendors sell not just local produce, but also local honey and the work of local artisans – blended teas, handmade pottery, soaps, soy candles, jewelry, handblown glass, clothing, baked goods, specialty coffee and much more.
Dirtbag Ales Farmers Market
• 5423 Corporation Dr.
• Sunday, 10 a.m.-1 p.m., through October
Grab a cold beer from the Dirtbag Ales Brewery and Taproom, then stroll and browse options that include fresh produce, local honey, craft kombucha, pasture-raised meats, eggs, fresh-caught fish and shrimp, clothes, flowers, beverages, coffee and even homemade popsicles and ice cream.
The market is dog-friendly and is next to a dog park, so bring your lawn chair and enjoy the family atmosphere on Sunday afternoons.
This market was born out of a desire for Dirtbag Ales and Sustainable Sandhills to work together and show off the bounty of the Sandhills. Sustainable Sandhills is the acting market manager; its mission is to save the planet while preserving the environment through education, demonstration and collaboration.
Gillis Hill Farm Produce
• 2899 Gillis Hill Rd.
• Monday-Saturday, 10 a.m.-6 p.m., through January
• 910-308-9342 or 910-867-2350
For the past 200 years, the Gillis family has owned and operated this farm. They have a roadside mart that provides, depending on the season, apple butter, apple cider, apples, beans, blackberries, blueberries, broccoli, cabbage, cantaloupe, collards, corn, cucumbers, eggplant, gourds, greens, herbs, honey, Indian corn, grapes, Muscadine grapes, nectarines, onions, peaches, peppers, potatoes, pumpkins, raspberries, squash, strawberries, sweet potatoes, tomatoes, watermelons, zucchini, pecans, jams and jellies.
There are also seasonal Christmas trees, wreaths, vegetable plants, boiled peanuts, mums, strawberry picking, corn mazes and hay rides.