How did you like that ice cream recipe from Friday? I hope you got a chance to pick up some berries at the farmer’s market and try it. Charlotte Fresh is running behind in publishing posts – there is so much fresh information to put out there! Good problem to have, I would say. Here’s my overdue post from our visit to the Charlotte Regional Farmers Market.
One of five markets owned by the state of N.C. and run by the N.C. Department of Agriculture & Consumer Services, the primary emphasis is on N.C. farmers. When we first visited this market seven years ago, there were fewer producers (e.g. farmers) and what seemed like a lot more grocers selling out-of-season produce from the U.S. west coast and from other countries. Now, as we peruse the various buildings, we see more and more farmers and vendors from the Carolinas and even a section of farmers who are local to the Charlotte area. Look for beef, pork, lamb, bread, produce, fruit, preserves, grains, baked goods, flowers and more. Don’t get me wrong – we’ve still got some way to go before this market is as local as how my friend describes the state run market in Raleigh, and we, as consumers, should continue to push for more local food.
But as unpopular and uncomfortable as this dialogue might be, it has to be said – you have to decide for yourself what your definition of local and fresh is going to be when you visit this market. If you define it as being within N.C., you accept that you could be getting blueberries (very good) from the eastern part of the state, almost 200 miles away, but closer than South America or California. If you define local as being within the surrounding Charlotte area, then you should visit the farmers bearing the sign “Local Farmer, Local Food.”
I know, it’s hard to be small-radius local 100% of the time – I can’t get a local lemon or lime, but I try to have as local an eating footprint as possible. Local produce requires less transportation energy, is fresher because it doesn’t travel as far, keeps more nutrients in the food and is great for the local economy. I want my farmers to thrive.
So, talk with your farmers. Ask them questions. Find out more about where your food is coming from and how it’s grown. We chatted with Maria Fisher of Fisher Farms (who makes the tomato sauce for my pizza) and Dean Mullis of Laughing Owl Farm while we were at the Regional market, and noticed there were several more local farmers to visit. And while you’re at that end of the market building, make sure to visit Proffitt Farms for some grass-fed beef (try the flat-iron steak for fajitas) – tell Shelley we said hi.
In the greenery shed, you’ll find plants of all types, even organic ones. As with the food, you need to ask questions about the plants. Native plants thrive better in our soils and are more drought tolerant. And for those of you who like sturdy garden structures, visit Jane at Trell-O, a Charlotte-based company – she has a fantastic trellis system that I’m considering putting in once I get my new beds made. I’m running out of growing room and growing season.
The market also has a special barn featuring locally-produced artisan goods – check it out for woodwork, children’s clothing, birdhouses, paintings, glasswork, pottery and more. These goods are lovingly handmade and would make terrific gifts. I especially like the wooden toys for my nieces. You won’t see any pictures here of these items since some of the artisans are sensitive to their designs being copied, and that’s easy to understand.
And don’t forget…no visit to the Charlotte Regional Farmers Market is complete without a trip to The Moon! Get some fresh, local breakfast at the orange cart and say hi to Cassie from Grateful Growers for us. You can also buy their fabulous pork products at the Regional market in the Local Farmers section.
Getting there: 1801 Yorkmont Road – Charlotte, North Carolina 28217
Hours: 8 a.m.-6 p.m. Tuesday-Saturday, March-September (8 a.m.-5 p.m. Oct-Feb), plus 12:30-6 p.m. Sundays, May-August. (Note: On the particular Saturday that we arrived, some of the farmers were packing up at about noon or 1pm.)
See more pictures from Charlotte Fresh’s visit on facebook.