Posts filed under ‘Farmers’ Market’

Farm to Food Bank: Feeding the hungry in a land of plenty


Farmer Foodshare driver Ryan Cribbins delivers fresh farm produce to food agencies serving hungry clients in four counties

By Dee Reid

For most foodies the Triangle is a locavore paradise teeming with family farms, fresh markets and seasonal cuisine. But despite this cornucopia, more than 16 percent of our regional neighbors (276,000 adults and children) are considered “food insecure.” Struggling to make ends meet, they know what it means to be hungry. Many rely on cheap processed food that is high in fat and sodium. And that increases their risk for Type 2 diabetes, hypertension, obesity and other costly ailments related to poor diets.

Farmer Foodshare is breaking new ground to tackle this paradox of hunger in a land of plenty. The Durham-based nonprofit has established a centralized food hub called the POP (Pennies on the Pound) Market. Its staff and volunteers purchase fresh food wholesale from local farms, then sort and deliver it at affordable :prices to an impressive web of local organizations that feed some 24,000 hungry people annually.

The idea is to strengthen local farms and local communities by providing new outlets for farmers and a convenient source of fresh healthy food for people who need it.

“Our goal is to keep it affordable for the food agencies, while ensuring that the farmers are getting a good price,” said POP Market manager Karla Capacetti.

That’s a tall order, which requires balancing tight schedules and budgets to meet the needs of a complex network of partners. The POP Market taps about 43 small-to-mid-size farms across 17 counties, and 25 local food banks, senior centers, preschools and other agencies feeding Alamance, Chatham, Durham and Orange counties.

Michelle and Jerry

Take and Eat Food Pantry manager Michelle Morehouse and Farmer Foodshare volunteer Jerry Levit

The POP Market provides the efficiency, agility and “glue” needed to acquire and transport fresh food expeditiously to a diverse array of customers. Twice a week, Karla e-mails, texts and calls the farmers to find out what they have available. Then she e-mails a list to the food agencies, which have 24 hours to complete their orders. She assembles purchase orders and invoices, then e-mails them to two drivers, and gets them on the road to quickly pick up the bulk food from the farms, transport it to Farmer Foodshare to be sorted for customized orders, and re-load it into the van for direct delivery to the food agencies.

Together, the POP Market and its partner farms and agencies are now providing fresh local food to at least 500 people every week, year-round.

“It’s great to have all of this fresh food going to hungry people,” said Karla.

Since its formation in 2012, the POP Market has spent more than $150,000 with local farmers, and delivered 110,000 pounds of healthy food to local organizations. The program’s reach is growing rapidly. Since the beginning of this year alone it has purchased $83,000 from local farmers and delivered 60,000 pounds of food to local communities.

I recently rode in the Farmer Foodshare van as it traveled across the Triangle to fulfill the message emblazoned on its door panels, “bringing food from local growers to local eaters.”

Jerry Levit, a volunteer and retired farmer and realtor, was delivering farm goods to seven agencies spanning three counties. By 9 am he had picked up produce from Farmer Foodshare and delivered the customized orders to Child Care Services and Chapel Hill Daycare. I caught up with him at Evergreen United Methodist Church in north Chatham, which houses the Take and Eat Food Pantry. The pantry, supported by six local churches, provides groceries for 30-40 families per week.

Pantry manager Michelle Morehouse especially likes supplementing the non-perishables with fresh local food. “My goal was to improve the nutritional content of the food we give out,” she said. “Now we can order healthy produce based on our clients’ preferences.”

The families that come to the pantry also enjoy having fresh produce, even unfamiliar items. “Many clients have never tried some of these vegetables before,” Michelle said. “They discover they like them and they let us know that.”

Jerry went on to deliver more fresh food to four other partner organizations that day, including Sonder Market, a new student-run produce stand at UNC; the Inter-Faith Council Food Pantry in Carrboro; nearby Club Nova, providing mental health support programs; and Child Care Services in Durham.

Jerry likes supporting farmers and helping them expand their reach to needy customers. “We’re committed to strengthening sustainable agriculture and feeding the people,” he said.

The following day I rode with Ryan Cribbins, a part-time POP Market employee who has retired from a long career at RTI International. We drove to the State Farmers’ Market where we picked up fresh produce from three growers: Cox Farms in Goldsboro, Wise Farms in Mt. Olive and Jones Farm in Snow Hill. Then we drove to Lyon Farms in Creedmoor. In just three hours, Ryan had filled the van to capacity with about $1,200 worth of squash, sweet potatoes, strawberries and grapes.

The farmers were pleased. Robbie Cox drove a front loader with more than $500 worth of produce over to the Farmer Foodshare van, including a dozen boxes of cucumbers, five bushels of yellow onions, two bushels of red bell peppers and a big box of broccoli.

“This system works well for us,” said Robbie, who has been farming all of his life. “We can provide quantity and top-of-the-line produce. And every bit of what we can sell helps our bottom line.”

Back at Farmer Foodshare’s warehouse, Ryan unloaded the van, then labeled boxes for next-day delivery to four partner organizations: Veggie Van, a local mobile market; TABLE, feeding school children; Panda Packs, providing week-end food for hungry students at Pittsboro Primary School; and the Interfaith Council Food Pantry in Carrboro.

“I love what we’re doing,” said Ryan. “It’s a really good organization and I like contributing to something worthwhile. I’m also learning a lot about our farm system and the food agencies that serve our communities.”


November 6, 2014 at 7:11 pm Leave a comment

Wild food market coming soon

echineacaHave you always wanted to learn more about the foods and herbs that grow wild in the woods? Now it looks like you can, while shopping for them at what is being billed as one of the first wild food markets in the country.

Beginning March 10, the Wild Food + Herb Market will run one Sunday afternoon (1 to 4) each month on the Carrboro Commons from March through November, thanks to support from our friends at The Abundance Foundation in Pittsboro.

The Wild Food + Herb Market coming to Carrboro will be a foragers market featuring foragers, herbalists, wild food cultivators and local plant educators in the North Carolina Piedmont. The market will provide wild food and medicinal herb enthusiasts a place to buy, sell, trade and gather with others interested in wild foods and herbs.

Vendors will provide unusual wild foods for adventurous foodies, while educational organizations will be on hand to offer information on wild foods and resources on how to learn more about wild food identification.

What a great opportunity to learn more about wild plants of the Piedmont and their uses, how to identify and harvest wild foods, herbs, medicinal plants and mushroom.

Co-Founders Josh Lev, community herbalist and founder of the Carrboro Herb Guild, and Jenny Schnaak, development director and youth program manager for The Abundance Foundation, have been wanting for some time to create a space for herbalists and foragers to meet and sell goods. After word that Alan Muskat, well-known foraging expert, was launching a wild foods market this spring in West Asheville, they decided to build on that excitement and carry the momentum to the Piedmont.

There is a conservation ethic behind the idea of gathering and using local wild plants.  “Knowledge of the incredible resources that local plants offer both in terms of food and medicine serves to help people feel more connected to the land and other living things in their communities,” says Lev. “We protect and care for what we value and feel connected to. We want the Wild Food + Herb Market to be not only a marketplace, but also place where people with similar interests can gather and learn from each other.”

To learn more, contact

And check out the Facebook page:

January 23, 2013 at 9:10 pm 3 comments

Bill Dow, the food doctor

2010 photo by Harry Lynch/News and Observer

2010 photo by Harry Lynch/News and Observer

This is excerpted from Andrea Weigl’s fine feature in the News and Observer, which captures the many facets of Bill Dow’s lasting contributions to our community and many others.  Bill, 67, died earlier this week from unknown causes. A memorial service will be held Dec. 15 at 11 am at the Spring Friends Meeting house in Snow Camp.

Anyone who spends time this weekend shopping at one of the about 30 farmers markets across the Triangle can thank Bill Dow.

The Chatham County organic farmer and former physician helped start the Carrboro Farmers’ Market, the area’s oldest farmer-run market. He also was a leader in the Triangle’s local food movement.

Before the Carrboro Farmers’ Market started in 1978, few farmers grew produce to sell directly to consumers, restaurants didn’t list farms on their menus, and “locavore” was not part of the lexicon. Carrboro’s wildly popular farmers market could be considered the genesis of the Triangle’s eat-local scene, spawning dozens of farmer- and community-run markets from downtown Raleigh to Saxapahaw.

Dow was remembered this week by friends as a quiet, thoughtful man who lived by his convictions. Most of them knew him as a physician who became the state’s first certified organic farmer, believing he could do more good growing vegetables than dispensing medicines.

They may not have known that he had spent several years helping set up health clinics in eastern Tennessee. Or that his community organizing in those rural areas led him to help start farmers markets from Georgia to Arkansas. Or that he was involved in the effort to expand solar power in Chatham County, encouraging people to build solar-powered greenhouses and water heaters. Or that he was the first small organic farmer in the region to put 22 acres of his 30-acre farm under a conservation easement in perpetuity.

“He did so much,” said Daryl Walker, his partner, who had been with Dow for a decade. “He talked so little about it,” she said.

Read the whole story here.

December 8, 2012 at 8:13 am Leave a comment

Food truck roundup

Our Triangle NC foodshed grows more amazing by the day.  The fastest growth in local eateries using locally grown ingredients is happening with the food trucks. We’ve started a Twitter list to keep track of them. If you have others to add, send them our way.  Here’s what I have so far on the food truck list @sustainablegrub:

Will & Pop’s: Modern comfort food in sandwich form, made from the freshest local ingredients.

Sympathy4Deli ‏ @Sympathy4Deli

Locally sourced & organic meats + specialty curing, smoking, and roasting.

Porchetta is operated by two chefs offering slow roasted Italian style pork sandwiches, and more pork related tastiness.

Pizza: Local Pies for the People. NC.

Great ice cream handmade in Durham and scooped from a bus.

Visit us on Saturdays in Carrboro, 106 S Greensboro, 9a-2p. Sundays in Carrboro at Johnny’s, 9a-2p.

Connecting local food producers with local food lovers.

Now our family’s third year of farming!

The Humble Pig is a husband & wife local BBQ slingin’ & food truck operatin’ team.

Farmhand Foods connects North Carolina’s pasture-based livestock farmers with local food lovers, restaurants and retailers.

Preparing Fresh, Healthy, Original Sandwiches with special meats, farmers market produce, home made condiments on artisan breads.

Proud to be food-trucking European-style sausage sandwiches across Raleigh, Durham and Chapel Hill.

Serving gourmet melt and grilled cheese sandwiches in the Triangle, North Carolina.

October 6, 2012 at 1:28 pm Leave a comment

Carolina sprouts campus CSA

Karla Capacetti of Sprout partner Coon Rock Farm shows a UNC student how to cook fresh produce.

Starting October 4, Carolina students, faculty and staff can order a weekly bag of locally grown food,  pick it up on campus AND support good causes all over the globe.  Sprout, a campus CSA (community supported agriculture) project, was developed by Nourish UNC, a student movement for sustainable development and member of the Campus Y.

Sprout partners with Coon Rock Farm, a local, sustainable enterprise, to provide fresh, seasonal produce for the campus CSA. The venture supports the local economy and food system while making healthy food accessible to the campus community. All proceeds from Sprout go to grassroots community development projects around the world.

Sprout members receive a canvas bag of produce each week for eight weeks, starting Oct. 4. The bags will be available for pick up at the Campus Y. Customers will receive a variety of produce each week, depending on the harvest calendar. For the fall, a wide variety of vegetables and greens includes eggplant, okra, zucchini, sweet potatoes, carrots, peppers, baby turnips, salad greens (arugula, mesclun, etc.) and cooking greens (bok choy, kale, etc.). Additionally, this semester Sprout will take pre-orders of Coon Rock eggs, meat products (pasture-raised chicken, pork roast, bacon, sausage, steak) and honey.

A season of Sprout produce deliveries costs $80 ($10 per week). A suite bundle that is twice the single order alongside a side order of produce not in the regular bundle costs $224.

Find out more.

September 26, 2012 at 8:43 pm Leave a comment

Urban farm/market sprouting in shipping containers

It’s too early to tell if Ben Greene is a genius or a dreamer, or maybe a little of both. We’re betting on him, though, because he’s thinking “inside the box” and that alone is just plain refreshing.  In this case the box is a shipping container with some greenhouse components. The mission is to bring sustainable food production to a convenient location in the city where food can be bought on the spot while it’s still growing. It’s called The Farmery.

Ben’s dream is to launch an urban greenhouse/ farmer’s market inside four 40-foot shipping containers in Raleigh. He says they will grow Shitake mushrooms, micro-greens, strawberries, Tilapia and more inside the contraption, and you’ll be invited in to pick your own. Food will grow in a greenhouse structure on the upper level; he’ll ring you up downstairs. It doesn’t get any fresher than that. The whole thing is about 55′ x 55′, which makes it easy to tuck into an urban space. He’ll supplement what he grows with local goods from local farmers.

Where did he get this  brainstorm? He wrote it up for his master’s thesis in industrial design from N.C. State University, one of the best design schools in the country. So maybe he IS a genius.

Check out the video.

Why the Farmery?

“We’ve recognized how difficult it is for supermarkets to offer locally grown produce, primarily because of the inconsistent supply,” Ben says. “When the grocers do make attempts to sell locally grown produce, they have nothing more than a sign to differentiate the locally grown produce from the conventional, nationally grown produce located next to it.”

The Farmery offers a new way to shop for food where the story of the farmers and their food is experienced throughout the shopping experience itself.

“The entire structure of the Farmery is used to grow food, so customers can be surrounded by the sights, smells, and sounds of their food growing as they are making their purchase decisions,” Ben says. “This helps customers understand and appreciate the added value of small-scale, artisanal farming.”

After testing this container for a year, Ben proved that his concepts worked and he began looking for additional funding sources. In 2011, Tyler Nethers moved to Raleigh to help Ben. Together they built a more refined second prototype in Raleigh. They are now seeking funding on to construct the third prototype. After the third prototype is built, they will begin construction on the initial Farmery.

Their story

Ben, 29, grew up on a farm in Polk County, North Carolina, where his interest in food and nature’s system began. He ended up pursuing Sculpture at Clemson where he developed a thirst for original ideas. His college career was interrupted by a deployment to Iraq where he served as a combat engineer as part of the invasion force in 2003. He resumed college after his deployment and went to North Carolina State University’s industrial design program.

While Ben was at NC State, his grandfather began trying to sell homegrown produce to local restaurants and markets. Ben saw the frustration that his grandfather experienced and decided to look for solutions that would make producing food on a small scale profitable. He got the idea for the Farmery, he says, from reading shipping container architecture books and reading articles about ideas in vertical farming.

Tyler, 29, from Indiana, has always had an interest in natural systems and looks for opportunities to pursue these interests wherever he can. He majored in sustainable development and managed the campus greenhouse at Appalachian State University, graduating in 2005. After a few years designing biological systems for commercial developments, he took a job in Hawaii growing endangered species plants. He learned about the Farmery after a web search and after a couple of visits to Ben’s prototypes, he decided to move to Raleigh and join the team.

Why shipping containers?

Shipping containers dramatically lower the cost and difficulties of construction. “They also make the structure easily scalable and allow us to prototype the entire system and then just place the containers when the system is refined,” Ben says.

If Ben and Tyler can attract enough funding via Kickstarter and other sources, he hopes to begin construction in 2013. “We currently have about a third of what we need,” Ben says. You can help by donating through Kickstarter here:

September 24, 2012 at 9:05 pm Leave a comment

Support CSAs for hungry families

Kids help sort food at the Carrboro market

One in four children in North Carolina do not have enough food to eat.  Now you can help address this crisis AND support local farmers at the same time, by participating in a new challenge by Farmer Foodshare, the innovative nonprofit dedicated to making fresh local food more accessible.

There are a couple of ways to help, by visiting the Farmer Foodshare station at one of the Farmer’s Markets listed below.  As part of a brand-new initiative you can make a cash donation to support a local farm CSA share for a hungry family (you can even suggest which farm to use).  As always, you also can make a cash donation to support a local food bank or hunger organization, or donate part of your farmer’s market purchase to be distributed by a local food organization. In any case, your donations will be augmented by food donations from farmers and then collected at market by local hunger relief agency partners.

“Just in our region of the state, 180,000 kids don’t have enough food,” said Jonathan Bloom, a station manager with Farmer Foodshare. “Even sadder, North Carolina’s hunger rate for children under 5 is the worst in the nation. And an even larger number of young people don’t get enough nutritious, fresh food. The Farmer Foodshare Challenge aims to change that.”

Food pantries are extremely important to the services network. But, sometimes more targeted help is needed.  At-risk children and families may not be able to access food pantries due to scheduling challenges. Through the new CSA challenge,  Farmer Foodshare will purchase as many local CSA shares as possible to get nutritious, local food to hungry kids and their families, providing another option for partner agencies to better serve their clients.

CSA’s range in price from $300 to $500 for several months of delicious fresh food. CSA’s help farmers because they allow a farmer to plan what to grow and to be assured of income in response to seeds and other upfront growing costs. Donors can provide all or part of a CSA, and can earmark a donation for a particular farm or agency.

Participating Farmer’s Markets

Carrboro Farmers’ Market (

Chapel Hill Farmers’ Market (

Chatham Mills Farmers’ Market in Pittsboro (

Raleigh Downtown Farmers Market (

Durham Farmers Market (

Eno River Farmers Market (

Fearrington Farmers’ Market (

Hillsborough Farmers’ Market (

Southern Village Farmers Market (

Western Wake Farmers’ Market (

Many thanks to Farmer Foodshare founder Margaret Gifford and the volunteers and donors who help out every week.

September 16, 2012 at 2:56 pm Leave a comment

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