Western Wake Farmers Market, Cary, North Carolina

Saturday, Feb. 4, 2012

Cary, NC, farmers market, Feb. 4, 2012

This market, which has just wrapped up its third year, has been open year round for the past two years. There were about half a dozen produce vendors on hand on this warm, mid-winter day, and another dozen or so selling fish, meat, cheese, preserves and other food products. The market averages 40 vendors at the height of summer, and 17 to 20 make it to the market in winter, the market’s manager, Madison Whitley, said. The market’s web site sports an impressive roster of local farms, including some that have been in operation for generations and others that have been newly started or revived by the burgeoning farm-to-table movement in the nearby cities of Raleigh, Durham and Chapel Hill. According to the market’s rules, farms must be located within a 125-mile radius of the market. Vendors “must grow their own produce. No reselling is permitted,” and the market’s management “reserves the right to inspect and re-inspect any vendor’s farm/business location to verify a product’s origin.” Here’s a list of other grower-only farmers markets in this part of North Carolina.

Not all markets in North Carolina are as particular about what gets sold. The state Department of Agriculture operates a network of so-called “farmers markets,” housed inside large facilities that are shared by wholesalers who deal in produce trucked in from anywhere.

The markets are intended to help local farmers, but according to a 2002 study, they don’t accomplish that objective. More troubling, they deceive consumers, who are duped by the name and setting into thinking they are purchasing from actual farmers, the study found. The markets are supposed to have “grower only” sections for local farmers selling their own produce. Perhaps some of them do in the summer. But there was no such section set aside for actual local farmers at the market in Asheville that I visited.

Morrisville Carpenter Rd.
between Davis Dr. and Hwy. 55
Cary, NC
Saturdays, 10 a.m. to 12 p.m. (winter hours)
(540) 230-669

state-run "farmer's market"

state-run “farmers market” in Asheville, N.C.

slide show

What I Bought

hakurei turnips
hakurei turnips
Price: $3/bunch

Hakurei (also known at Tokyo or salad) turnips have been one of my favorite farmers market purchases for years. This bunch had a trait I’d never seen before — an orange tint to the skin, which is usually a whiter shade of white. But never mind that. It is a sure sign that these were freshly harvested from local, red-clay Carolina soil. They were as delicious as any others I’ve purchased at farmers markets from San Francisco and San Diego, to Toronto, Philadelphia and New York City. My preferred way of cooking hakurei turnips is to cut them in half and saute them — stems, greens and all — face down in a cast iron skillet in olive oil, salt and pepper until they are nicely browned. Then, I flip them over and cook them on their backsides for a few more minutes.

black radishes and sweet potatoes
black radishes and sweet potatoes
Price: $2.50/lb. for potatoes
$2.50 for basket of four radishes

greenhouse tomatoes
greenhouse tomatoes

Price: $4.50lb.

wheat berries
wheat berries
Price: $5/bag

The Singing Turtle Farm table had several varieties of wheat berries for sale — hard and soft, red and white.

kale and collard greens
kale and collard greens
Price: $2/bunch for kale
$3/bunch for collards

These greens are from Coon Rock Farm, a 55-acre farm that has been in continuous operation for 120 years. It was acquired in 2004 by the same group that owns Piedmont Restaurant in Durham and Zely & Ritz in Raleigh. The farm and restaurants were featured in a 2010 article in the New York Times. Seasonal Chef recently interviewed Piedmont’s head chef, Marco Shaw, who offered some interesting operations about the local food scene in North Carolina.