Piedmont Triad Farmer’s Market, Colfax, NC

I’m visiting my folks in North Carolina right now, and they are lucky to live close to one of the five state-run farmer’s markets. We tooled over to the Piedmont Triad Farmer’s Market yesterday and spent a little time nosing around.

This market is different from the ones around DC, Frederick and Jefferson County, WV that I regularly patronize. It’s a series of permanent buildings, some of which are just glorified shelters. There’s a major produce distributor on-site, a restaurant, and a garden center on the property. This market is not producers-only, local-only or organic-only (I’ve seen things like mangoes sold by one vendor in the one enclosed market building), so it’s not necessarily the best bet for locavores and those who insist on organics. However, there are many vendors who hold one or more of these “farmers market-y” qualities, and they are worth seeking out.

This market is so large that it’s bound to unearth all sorts of surprises. I really enjoyed sampling Goat Lady’s farmer’s cheese, which was like a sweeter, chewier version of feta. There’s a vendor in the permanent building that sells local rabbit, and a few sellers carry double-yolk eggs. (You can also find all kinds of Southern pantry staples in the permanent building: Old Mill of Guilford grits, scuppernong wine, chowchow and jerusalem artichoke pickles, sorghum molasses, any type of cured pork product imaginable. These sorts of foods are mostly unavailable in local supermarkets–even the “gourmet” and regionally-owned markets like Fresh Market or Harris Teeter don’t carry them.)

We picked up mostly fruits and vegetables: corn, tomatoes, cucumbers, berries, zucchini, squash, a big seedless watermelon, onions and potatoes. Several vendors carried assorted beans: yellow wax, blue lake, stringless green beans, crowder peas, lady peas–these latter varieties are impossible to find closer to home. I’m in the process of turning the corn and potatoes into a corn chowder, and the tomatoes were stewed down in a gentle oven with plenty of garlic and a glug of olive oil. It doesn’t take much to make me happy when these sorts of foods are in season.

The people at the market are a real slice of local life, too. I’m not used to seeing a lady with her ashtray parked next to the cash box at the back of a farmer’s stand. I was called “honey” frequently. One farmer really was wearing overalls–an adorably sweet guy who uttered “oh, lord” when he heard a good yarn. Farmer’s markets closer to home seem to be populated by ethical yuppies and the hipster-hippie farmers who used to be the yuppies themselves. Those people were at this market too, but they were joined by boisterous families, elderly people in wheelchairs, folks in fancy dress, people using their food stamps, people who don’t speak much English, and all other sorts of people.

I’m planning to return at least once more while we’re here in Greensboro. One of the best things about this place is that it’s open pretty much any time I feel like stopping by (although I believe there are more vendors on the weekend–and there certainly were many more shoppers then.) You should go, too, if you happen to be nearby.


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