Wake County Treasure: Farm-grown freshness
Farmers market is the oldest, largest of its kind in the state
by Jessica Mattison
The North Carolina State Farmers Market in Raleigh isn’t your average fruit and vegetable stand. Not only do farmers sell their best produce and plants there, but there’s also fish dealers offering up their freshest local fare, various vendors selling everything from fresh-baked breads to home décor, and three onsite eateries. There’s certainly plenty to see, buy and taste here.
Created in 1955 primarily to help farmers market and sell their products to a broader audience, it is the oldest and largest of the five markets recognized by the North Carolina Department of Agriculture; the others are in Asheville, Charlotte, Greensboro and Lumberton.
The State Farmers Market stretches over a remarkable 75 acres and accommodates approximately 200 growers directly and another 300 or so indirectly. As spring arrives, the year-round market is running at full capacity.
There are three categories of farmers who qualify to sell at the State Farmers Market. An “A” farmer must grow everything he or she sells, while a “B” farmer must grow at least 51 percent of what’s sold; these farmers also can buy from up to three other North Carolina growers. A “C” farmer is a designated seller, meaning that a representative not associated with growing products takes on the task of selling them to the public.
Visitors can purchase at the wholesale or retail level at the market, where they’ll find not only local products but also those from places as far away as Brazil.
Market shoppers also can dine at one of its three restaurants: Market Grill, N.C. Seafood Restaurant or State Farmers Market Restaurant, all of which prepare dishes using the freshest local ingredients. The State Farmers Market Restaurant — owned by the mother-and-son team of Gypsy and Tony Gilliam — is especially known for its authentic Southern cooking. The restaurant serves breakfast and lunch; whenever possible, meals are made using products sold at the market.
“We believe in creating the best guest experience possible,” Tony Gilliam says.
“We’re set on an amazing farmers market, where people from all over come to purchase everything from fresh vegetables to fresh pork products to flowers to pumpkins,” he adds. “While they’re here, they can enjoy a home-cooked meal featuring our real biscuits.”
The State Farmers Market’s success is due in large part to its ideal location along Interstate 40. It’s adjacent to N.C. State University and is just minutes from downtown, adding to its draw and appeal. Its location along the interstate also is important logistically because 90 percent of the produce that makes up the thriving market is grown in nearby Harnett, Johnston and Sampson counties.
“Everything that’s sold in these farmers markets is here to bring people out to buy local North Carolina products,” explains Ronnie Best, market manager.
“These restaurants are here to hopefully bring people in to eat and then go buy something from a farmer,” he adds. “So everything that’s put into these markets is put there to help these North Carolina farmers sell their products.”
Jessica Mattison is an editorial intern with Wake Living and Triad Living magazines.
If you go
The North Carolina State Farmers Market — open every day of the year except for Christmas — is located just off of Interstate 40 at the Lake Wheeler Road exit in Raleigh. Market hours are 5 a.m. to 6 p.m. Monday through Saturday and 8 a.m. to 6 p.m. Sunday. To learn more, call (919) 733-7417 or visit www.ncagr.gov/markets/facilities/markets/raleigh/.