Our Five Faves

Best farmers' markets

Posted July 30, 2012

Watermelon is prepared for the watermelon eating contest during the Midtown Farmers Market at North Hills in Raleigh on June 30, 2012.

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.

Midtown_Farmers_Market-19

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.

Those who like to combine farmers marketing with window shopping have an option in western Wake as well. The Apex Farmers Market at The Depot anchors the town's delightful main drag.

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.

Good things come in small packages at the Wake Forest Farmers Market, 150 North White St., and the South Durham Farmers Market on N.C. Highway 55.

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.

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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.

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  • corwinsshadow Aug 2, 2012

    While I applaud the activities surrounding it, and therefore what it brings to downtown, the Durham market is underwhelming. It may please the trendy and "organic" crowd, but it is overpriced, lacks variety and competition, and has that boutique atmosphere that gives farmers' markets the reputation of being a luxury for those who can afford it.

    I live in Durham, but I will travel to the State Farmer's Market in Raleigh for the freshest NC produce, at fair prices (often beating the supermarkets, but local, fresher, and better tasting), and where I can get every fresh produce item on my list, plus some of the best local pork at great prices.

    And, if I get a hankering, there are two great restaurants on the grounds.

  • computer trainer Aug 1, 2012

    Clayton has a farmers market from 9 to 12 or 2 if the weather cooperates. It is small but great prices.

    Cannot afford the North Hills Market $ 4 tomatoes are too rich for my blood.

  • Zelda Jul 31, 2012

    I totally agree -- the Durham Farmer's Market is amazing! Local, organic, and very well attended. One more reason I love living in Durham!

  • Opinionated1 Jul 31, 2012

    The NC State Farmers Market on Lake Wheeler Rd is the best, by far. The traffic flow could be improved a bit, but overall a great place to visit and shop for local goods. The one thing that puzzles me is why you would have this great place, then set up another downtown market two miles away. Seems a bit counter productive to me, but that's just my opinion.

  • badjag1954 Jul 31, 2012

    The Midtown Market at North Hills is Raleigh's best for local products. My family's favorite booth is The Pleasant Bee Honey.

  • mcatfan Jul 30, 2012

    The Wake Forest Farmers Market has relocated to increase space. Still small but is growing. Can't miss it, just follow the Saturday morning traffic on Business 98.