What better way to start a summer weekend than with fresh produce and homemade sweets. These are the draws for farmers' markets big and small across the area. Some are neighborly, others enormous. Some selective, others offer food, goods and even full meals. I had the pleasure of touring and tasting to find our Five Faves. If I've missed your spot, be sure to share it in the comments.
The State Farmers Market is open seven days a week, year-round. It draws a work-week lunch crowd, Saturday shoppers and restaurant buyers who stock up in bulk. The season's best is celebrated with designated days for peach, watermelon, pumpkin and pecan – to name just a few.
Mosey along the long rows of shops and stalls, including 15,000 square feet of indoor shopping. The easy-access location, just off Interstate 40 in Raleigh, means shoppers from all around make the stop for fruits, vegetables, herbs and plants.
If the state market is too overwhelming, there are smaller options in many locales.
For the Midtown set, the market at North Hills is popular. In a quick trip around the U-shaped market, you can collect fresh honey, shrimp, organic eggs, a floral bouquet and a drink from Starbucks to power your shopping. Make a morning of it with live music, or even hang around for a matinee movie.
Ready-to-eat snacks like sweet potato pie from Mommo's and the Redeye Barbecue truck join vegetable and fruit farmers alongside boutiques offering clothes, fresh ice cream and even sit-down restaurants on Salem Street.
The Apex market is open year-round, with shorter hours during the winter.
Each caters to a local shopper base with a smaller number of vendors but still covers the basics – fruits, veggies, flowers, cheese, meat or seafood. You might find only one cheese or flower vendor at these smaller markets, but you will know their wares grew less than an hour away.
Best overall: Even for Raleigh residents, the Durham Farmers' Market is worth the trip.
Vendors overflow the Pavilion at Durham Central Park. In addition to an abundance of fresh, seasonal produce, shop from artisans of cheese, soap, wood and textiles. Join a hands-on class to learn how to enjoy the fruits of the field. Sit on the curb to enjoy live music – there were three musicians playing on the day I visited.
Farmers and food trucks come together in Durham. A selection of food trucks parks around the corner offering drinks and prepared meals that range from soft pretzels to burgers to pizza and donuts.
The Durham Farmers Market is open year-round, with shorter hours December through March.