A Saturday market for Pittsboro?

December 14, 2008 at 5:04 pm Leave a comment

Here’s another good example of entrepreneurs, farmers and farm advocates working together to support sustainable agriculture and our local economy.  Come spring, Pittsboro could have a new Farmer’s Market on Saturdays at the Carolina Brewery on the north edge of town.

Brewery owner Robert Poitras recently convened a public meeting to chew on the idea.  With growing consumer interest in sustainable food, and new farmers looking for ways to bring their goods to market, a Saturday market at his place (Bellemont Station at the interesection of two major highways) seemed like a great idea.  Robert said he’d love to promote such a market through his advertising, and in his restaurant. He thought it would be good for the farmers, the consumers, his business and downtown Pittsboro.  (Nobody mentioned it would also add some sustainable counter-balance to the nearby new fast-food center featuring Mickey D’s, Colonel Sanders and Taco Bell.)

About a dozen farmers showed up to chat,  along with two downtown shopkeepers,  local artist Leslie Fesperman of the Pittsboro Merchants Association, and Debby Roos, our Super Sustainable Ag Agent.  The farmers were definitely interested.  Amy and Annette (Sofia’s Farm) said they had been involved in a market located at a Durham shopping center and it was very successful; they would also like to sell in Pittsboro on Saturdays. They raise goats, pigs and lamb.

Will, who grew up on a family farm in Georgia and learned about sustainable ag from master farmer Bill Dow (first certified organic farmer in Chatham), said he was just getting started farming produce in the Silk Hope area and would consider trying to partner with some neighbors to participate in a market in Pittsboro. Pam (Another Roadside Attraction) said it’s hard for new farmers to break into the existing markets, so this would present a new opportunity for them. 

Debby reminded the group that there is already a Farmer’s Market in Pittsboro on Thursday afternoons, and the farmers acknowledged that there is also one at Fearrington on Tuesdays. Farmers and consumers in eastern Chatham County are lucky to have two great markets.  Some wondered if there would be enough demand for a third.

That’s when I raised my hand. I think it’s important to make sure there are enough sustainable shoppers to warrant a third market day in Chatham, I said. But I believe  there is a hidden untapped demand in Pittsboro and in eastern Chatham for a Saturday market:  Some 60% of workers in Chatham, like me, commute to jobs outside the county.  We want to shop local and support our local farmers, but by the time we get home from work, our Farmers’ Markets are closed or mostly wiped out.

We have three great Farmers Markets in Chapel Hill, but I’d rather spend my money in Chatham. And I bet many of the folks who ride the free bus with me to Chapel Hill every day, and many others who have long commutes to Raleigh and Durham,  feel the same way.

The Fearrington Farmer’s Market on Tuesdays would still appeal more to the folks who live there, and to retirees in north Chatham, and the Thursday Market should still be most attractive to folks who live or work in the Pittsboro area.  So in theory the Saturday market shouldn’t detract from the existing ones.

There are hundreds, maybe thousands, of east Chatham residents who would patronize a Saturday market in Pittsboro, IF it has the same quality and integrity of the other local markets.  All agreed that any new market should be operated directly by the growers, and that it should strive to offer a diverse range of produce, fruits, meat, cheese, bread, preserves, maybe some plants and farm-produced crafts.

Leslie, who is considering growing herbs for sale, said she thought if the Saturday market was promoted well, it would bring more people to downtown Pittsboro on Saturdays, and that’s always a good thing.

Robert, Debby and the farmers said it sounded like it was wellworth pursuing the idea. Robert will followup with all and aim for a plan that would bring a Saturday market to Pittsboro in time for the early spring season. Stay tuned.

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