Left Bank Butchery in Saxapahaw, NC

Last month I visited a few fantastic local sustainability resources in the Burlington, NC area: Burlington’s food co-op Company Shops Market, Piedmont Feed and Garden Center in Chapel Hill, and Left Bank Butchery in Saxapahaw.

Left Bank Butchery

Have you been to Saxapahaw? It’s a magical oasis of local food, drink, art, music, and nature in the middle of rural Central North Carolina.

Food and drink: Saxapahaw General Store, The Eddy Pub, Haw River Farmhouse Ales, and of course Left Bank Butchery

Art, music, nature: Haw River BallroomPaperhand Puppet InterventionHaw River Canoe & Kayak Co.

Combining all categories: the weekly farmers market and outdoor concert series Saturdays in Saxapahaw, running from May through the end of August; and this coming weekend (May 2) is the annual Haw River Festival!

On the gloomy March day of our visit, we stopped only at the General Store for a delicious lunch (I wrote about our first visit there here), and Left Bank Butchery for some treats for dog (pig ears) and human (grass-fed local steak from Braeburn Farm).

Left Bank Butchery believe in using sustainable farming practices to raise healthy, happy animals. They start with whole carcasses from cows, pigs, and chickens pasture-raised (or, for the pigs, pasture- and forest-raised) on local farms, and butcher them in-house to ensure the highest-quality cuts of meat possible.

Our arrangement with local farms is simple- we buy from farmers that use the highest standards in regards to animal welfare, ecologically sound farming techniques, and quality of meat.

The day we visited our only planned destination in Saxapahaw was the General Store for lunch; we were thrilled to see Left Bank Butchery a few doors down. Next trip to NC we’ll have to go back on a summer Saturday for Saturdays in Saxapahaw… or to see a band at the Haw River Ballroom… or for dinner and beers at The Eddy… or to paddle the river. So many reasons to return to Saxapahaw!

The New York Times and Washington Post love Saxapahaw too. If you go there and don’t want to leave, here’s who you should talk to about real estate.

Have a Saxy day!

Piedmont Feed and Garden Center in Chapel Hill, NC

The next stop on our tour of local shopping highlights in the Burlington, NC area, was Piedmont Feed and Garden Center, right down the road in Chapel Hill.

I’ve been dragging my feet on this post because my sad, sorry, rainy day pictures are an embarrassment and don’t do the place justice. The store is bright and welcoming, full of feed and products for livestock, dogs and cats; a carefully curated equestrian section; bulk farm and landscaping supplies; and anything you might need for your garden. And if the greenhouse was lovely on the dreary March day I was there, it must be gorgeous now in Spring bloom.

See their Facebook page and Instagram feed for photos full of vibrant colors that show off the store way better than I do here, or better yet, go visit in person!

Piedmont Feed & Garden

The greenhouse 

This was before the Spring plants were fully stocked; the greenhouse is even more impressive now.

Greenhouse plants

Greenhouse plants

Greenhouse plants

The equine section (my favorite)

Equine section

Wanted: everything

Purchased: a Shires grooming kit bag (I am absolutely loving this bag), and a hoof pick/corkscrew combo (for emergencies)

The pet, poultry, and livestock sections

Poultry and livestock sections

Wanted: the fancy chicken coop and the squirrel-proof bird feeder (the sales video at the feeder display is pretty entertaining)

Purchased: a duck-shaped dog toy (HPuppy’s current favorite) and some limited-ingredient dog treats

If you live in the Burlington or Chapel Hill areas, Piedmont Feed and Garden should be your go-to gardening and farming resource. Check their events calendar to learn about upcoming plant and animal workshops and seminars, and go see Chris and Lilly–then vote for them as Best Garden Store and Best Pet Store for Chapel Hill Magazine’s 2015 Best of Chapel Hill Awards! Hurry, polls close on Wednesday the 22nd.


Next and final Burlington area tour stop: Left Bank Butchery in Saxapahaw. (We also stopped at Saxapahaw General Store for lunch but I’ve already written about how wonderful that place is.)


Local and sustainable dining in Berlin


Guten Tag!

Sorry I’ve been MIA around here. Mr HP and I adopted a dog at the beginning of the year and my free time has since evaporated. Now that we’re in a routine I’m hoping to be able to write more.

Plus, winter is depressing and demotivating. So this is just a quick post to try to get back into the swing of things.

checkpoint charlie

Mr HP is in Berlin, and asked me for a restaurant recommendation. I, in turn, asked Google. Here’s what I found:

In “The Global Guide to Local: Berlin” from Modern Farmer, we learn that in Berlin “there is a compelling movement toward sustainable design and community-based markets – and it’s growing fast.” The article lists sustainable food-related businesses of different types, including two restaurants – Katz Orange, specializing in seasonal, local organic produce and happy pigs (“…one of Berlin’s most adventurous and upscale farm-to-table places to eat” according to this list), and Kantine at David Chipperfield, offering simple food made from local ingredients – and a food hall/produce market, Markthalle Neun. At the market, according to Alternative Berlin, “…you can find an incredible array of delicious, sustainable, local food (as well as a brewery!) sourced in ecologically and socially responsible ways, in direct contact with the producers.”

Kantine’s success led to the creation of a second location, Das Lokal, which sources game from the forests surrounding Berlin. Wild game is about as far from industrial livestock as you can get!

Kantine is not to be confused with Kantine Kohlmann, a …”trendy bar and restaurant [that] uses local, sustainable ingredients to make delicious modern twists on German classics” per this article.

Pantry is a homey, affordable, recommended dinner spot whose “…produce and animal products are allegedly procured during visits to local markets or shipped in from within a 100km radius.”

For a splurge, try the “quite near” (as opposed to the “far away”) menu, which is based on local ingredients, at Reinstoff. Another special occasion destination is Pauly Saal, which sources local ingredients, including from its own garden.

And finally, it doesn’t get much more local than the Café and Restaurant in Prinzessinnengarten, which sources ingredients from Prinzessinnengarten itself.

We serve local and regional organic food and drinks if possible and support small-scale organic producers in and around Berlin. All the revenues from the bar and the kitchen contribute directly to the non-profit learning activities in Prinzessinnengarten.

Prinzessinnengarten is an urban farm raising organic produce, and neighborhood education center where the community can learn about sustainable living. The garden, built on an abandoned city plot, is run by a non-profit and tended by volunteers, and hosts workshops and other educational opportunities. It reminds me of a similar effort in Perth that I was lucky enough to visit last year.

Here is a map showing the locations discussed in this post. If you visit any of them, or if you know of others that should be included, let me know in the comments!

Stockholm’s Best Burgers

exterior view of Flippin' Burgers

Just before Team HP left on a short jaunt to Stockholm, the ever-observant Mr HP caught a tip in one of Huffington Post’s ubiquitous Top X Most Amazing [Random Thing]s Ever lists: the Number One Greatest Burger Outside America is at Flippin’ Burgers in Stockholm–and, per the article:

All Widegren’s beef is grass-fed, sourced from local farms, and ground in-house. A nearby bakery provides the buns.

As a recently recovered pescatarian, I have discovered that I love a good burger, but my rule is that I will only eat a burger if it’s from a local, happy, pastured, hormone- and antibiotic-free, humanely slaughtered cow. Flippin’ Burgers does it right:

Well, we only buy meat from small producers who have an eye on animal husbandry and slaughter. With animals staying outside and eat grass because they simply feel the best of it… Right now, we use E-marked Archipelago Meat from a small slaughterhouse in Värmdö who slaughter animals mainly from farms in the Stockholm archipelago. We have also worked with  Swedish Grass Meat and Greens Farms .

In Charlottesville this summer, Mr HP and I have enjoyed a Sunday tradition of burgers and beers at Champion Brewery: Every Sunday Champion hosts JM Stock Provisions and their magical grill of delights, serving fantastic burgers from local, pastured, hormone/chemical free cows, and man, are they good. So we were excited at the prospect of local happy-cow burgers on Sunday despite being 4200 miles from home.

Flippin’ Burgers has a wait for tables ALL THE TIME. We arrived at 5 and still waited for a half hour at the bar. While there, we got some tips from the (normal-sized) man next to us polishing off his order of FIVE cheeseburgers.

Flippin' Burgers bar

Flippin' Burgers menu

Based on our bar friend’s recommendation, we opted for Burglers, a basic cheeseburger with lettuce, tomato, and house sauce. Mr HP got a double because he is extra manly. My sad phone pictures do not do the food justice, so you’ll have to take my word for it that these burgers were excellent: juicy, flavorful, not too saucy, and the buns were fresh and not overly bready (you know how sometimes there’s too much bread for the quantity of innards? these were well-sized).

Flippin' Burgers Burgler

Part of the fun of the Flippin’ Burgers experience was the Americanish diner scene. The food was American-inspired: burgers, fries, and Ben and Jerry’s milkshakes. The Swedes next to us ordered Blue Ribbon beer (PBR to you and me). The Spotify station (Spotify started in Sweden, remember? Seems like all restaurants/cafes/stores here have “Check out our playlist on Spotify” signs.) was heavy on early-90s American Top 40. But we were surrounded by Swedish-speakers and we were drinking Swedish beer, so all culture was not lost.

Flippin' Burgers diner scene

Ice cream case

Stockholm Brewing Co

We considered sharing a milkshake for dessert, but instead shared another burger for dessert. Five Burger Guy’s ladyfriend recommended the Cricket burger, which is not made of crickets, but rather a burger topped with cream cheese, pickled onions and jalapenos, inspired by the Cherry Cricket in Denver; this was our dessert.

Flippin' Burgers Cricket

Oh what a terrible picture. The onions were sweet, so it was sort of dessertesque. I wonder how the calorie count compares to that of a milkshake… no, I don’t want to know anything about the calories involved in this meal. It was an interesting and surprisingly tasty combo, but the more traditional burger was better in my opinion.

In conclusion, pastured, local, happy cows make the best burgers, and if you’re craving a top-notch burger in Stockholm and have the time to wait for a table, check out Flippin’ Burgers. If you’re craving a top-notch burger in Charlottesville, meet me at Champion on Sunday!

Adventures in Brazilian steak eating: the Rubaiyat restaurants

While in São Paulo last week, I was lucky enough to feast at A Figueira Rubaiyat, one of the city’s top restaurants. The “figueira” part of the name comes from the magnificent Bengal fig tree, over 100-years-old, that the dining room was built around. Here’s a picture from the restaurant’s website:

… because the pictures I took don’t do it justice:





But probably more interesting to you, dear readers: who are the cows served at A Figueira Rubaiyat and its sister restaurants in the Rubaiyat Group?

The Rubaiyat Group claims to be a “Farm to Plate” operation that rears pasture-raised beef cattle, chicken, and pigs on their own farm in Dourados, Mato Grosso do Sul, Brazil, since 1968. The animals are “fed naturally and raised in freedom,” according to a press release; but it is unclear from everything I could find online if “naturally” means they’re not fed hormones or unnecessary antibiotics, if the cows are finished on grass or on a feedlot, and if humane slaughtering practices are employed.

The meal was enormous and delicious and we were too busy cramming food into our faces for me to take any pictures, other than of the tree as we were leaving. Sorry. Imagine, along with the steak and fish entrees: fresh breads; an appetizer platter of sliced salami, olives, mozzarella balls and tomatoes, and salmon chunks; sides of grilled veggies, puffed potato slices, and hearts of palm; and an elaborate dessert buffet that we were sadly too painfully stuffed to try.

I’m sure you’re wondering if I ate steak. Unfortunately for me (by all accounts from my cohorts at the table), I didn’t do this research into the origins of the beef until after our dinner, so not knowing if the meat was from happy cows, I didn’t try the steak. Instead, I tried the exotic-sounding pirarucu, a large, ancient, air-breathing fish from the Amazon. It was good, but the steak eaters said there was no comparison to the meat. I’ll just have to go back to Brazil to try it!

In closing, since I didn’t get a food shot, here’s a cityscape. It’s a really neat town.

Sao Paulo

Floyd Tiny House Tour

Guest post from the swashbuckling Tiny Twosome. Thanks, Tiny Twosome!

Last month, the Tiny Twosome (formerly known as Butter Boy and Butter Babe) attended the Sustain Floyd Tiny House Tour.  This fun self-guided driving tour of six private tiny homes in and around Floyd, VA, gave us a peek into the homes, and lives, of a few folks who have made the choice to scale back on their material possessions and expand their time and resources for other things.

We left Charlottesville Friday after work and hit the road toward Floyd, stopping in Lexington for a little dinner before finally reaching our destination: the Bent Mountain Lodge Bed and Breakfast.  Even before the Tiny Tour, this place seemed expansive.  We had a good night, though somewhat interrupted by a sound outside that made us think of a barking seal, and after a minimalist breakfast the next morning – slightly supplemented by food from the “family” refrigerator, before Butter Boy noticed the sign on the other fridge that read “Guest Refrigerator,” we headed off bright and early for the first house on our list.

The Twosome’s Favorite Tiny House

316 square ft house

The 316 square foot house, built by Christy and Ricardo, powered by a solar system installed by Ricardo, was our first – and favorite – of the houses.  The couple spent a year building their house – living in a tent for the first six months.  Ricardo said that ten months out of the year they are able to feed power back into the grid and have the electric company send THEM a check. The couple lives mortgage-free, paying for projects and upgrades as they go, without going into debt.  This cute two-story house sits on a on a permanent foundation.  Some of our favorite features were the “big” wrap-around porch, cozy feel, and red metal roof.  Inside, it was small but very livable for two.

The Tiny Farm Cabin

Our next stop was the Riverstone Organic Farm to see the tiny cabin where a farm worker (Kat) lives for the season.  Although it is insulated and has electricity, this cabin has no indoor plumbing and is heated by a small woodstove.  The little cabin has a sitting area, a curtained-off bedroom area, and a loft, and is decorated with Kat’s found treasures from around the farm and beyond.  Kat said she does her cooking and washing-up at the facilities in the nearby barn / farm store.

Riverstone Organic Farm cabin

Also on the property was this yurt they purchased for use as a guesthouse and special events.  We liked the stump steps up to the platform.

Stump stairs

The Tiny Family Home

Amazingly, Hari and Karl’s family of four has lived in this tiny house for the past four years.  They constructed the 168 square foot house themselves on a mobile home frame, and have been living there mortgage-free while constructing a larger home on the adjoining lot.  This tiny home has a sleeping loft at either end, and the downstairs contains a living area, kitchen, and bathroom.

168 square ft house

Their chickens enjoy a well-crafted home of their own.  The extensive chicken compound looked like just the place to raise happy, well-adjusted chickens.  I’m sure “factory farm” isn’t even in their vocabulary.

chicken compound

We drove into town and had a nice lunch break at the Floyd Country Store, where Butter Boy enjoyed chicken pot pie and tomato soup and Butter Babe had a tasty quiche and white bean and kale soup.  We spotted a few of the other Tiny Tourists who apparently had the same idea.

The Tiniest Tiny House

Next stop was Jim’s 120 square foot self-built home – which was also constructed on a mobile home trailer.  Jim, however, used only a small portion of the frame’s length (about 8 feet) for his home and dedicated the rest to an extensive deck and attached shed.  It was by far the Tiniest of the Tiny homes we saw.  With five of us standing inside, there wasn’t room for much more.

tiniest tiny house

The Roomy-ish Tiny House

The small home of Morgan and Amado has a bedroom area to the right of the front door, a sitting area straight ahead, and bathroom and kitchen off to the left. There is a storage loft over the kitchen and bathroom. The very open floor plan felt roomy for such a modest-sized home.

roomy tiny house

After the tour we had to stop by the nearby Chateau Morrisette to taste some wine before dinner.  Butter Boy abstained from the wine tasting – as he was driving.  Butter Babe, however, was not planning to do any driving that day.

Chateau Morrisette

Dinner was at a local Italian restaurant, Mickey G’s Bistro and Pizzeria, where we enjoyed seafood and pasta.  Butter Boy had a giant half-lobster but was given only a tiny nutcracker to get into the slippery, buttery crustacean.  (Sadly, given that we were in the landlocked little town of Floyd, we’re pretty sure that the lobster was not locally sourced…)

The final activity of the Tiny Tour was the showing of the movie “Tiny: A Story About Living Small” at the Floyd Country Store.  The film followed a young man as he took longer than he anticipated to build his own tiny house – with help from his very patient girlfriend.   A question and answer session followed with a panel of tiny homeowners (the homes, not the owners).

More than a tiny bit tired, we returned to the Bent Mountain Lodge – which felt larger than the night before – for one more night before heading home with lots of ideas and things to think about.

A Tiny Haiku:

Simple tiny house

Smaller footprint larger life

Gentler on the Earth

HP in Australia #3: Perth City Farm

At the end of the free Yellow CAT bus line* just outside downtown Perth lies an urban oasis where once a polluted scrap metal yard stood: Perth City Farm. Their motto: “Working together to create greener cities and sustainable landscapes for the future.”

Perth City Farm

Perth City Farm, managed by the non-profit Men of the Trees, not only grows organic food in the city, but also hosts workshops, seminars, art galleries, and group events. Local volunteers and those seeking training or experience tend the gardens and cafe. The founder’s dream was to create “… a place in the city with a nursery, gardens, soup kitchens; a whole educational facility where young people could tend plants, meet each other, learn skills and find respect for themselves.”

perth-city-farm-men-of-the-trees perth-city-farm-inside

The Farm hosts a Saturday morning market featuring food and personal and household products from ethical and sustainable growers and producers, and has a popular onsite cafe serving simple breakfasty fare. I visited the cafe on a Monday afternoon, the first day they were open after a 3-week holiday, to find that they’d closed a bit early due to low traffic. It turned out the farm itself is closed on Mondays so I couldn’t observe the workers bustling around–which actually was nice in that I could stroll through the quiet gardens all alone. So even though I didn’t get to try any of the cafe’s food, the trip definitely was not a bust.

perth-city-farm-inside-seating perth-city-farm-inside-path

The Farm’s Facebook page is updated often with hours, events, and photos.

*CAT buses run four free loops within the city. Best part: most people, when exiting the bus, called out “thank you!” to the driver, who thanked them right back. It’s the little things, people!

HP in Australia #2: Perth

Perth is a peaceful, clean, easy to navigate playground for outdoor activities, with its river setting, biking and running paths, and ubiquitous green spaces, capped off by the enormous (larger than Central Park) Kings Park. It’s not all about fresh air though: go downtown Saturday night for some fantastic people-watching, as the ladies (oddly, it really is just the ladies) get all gussied up to hit the bars. Pro tip: don’t wear flip flops if you go out in the evenings, as most places have a dress code banning them.

Favorite things about Perth:

Jacob's Ladder

The view from Jacob's Ladder

Jacob’s Ladder, a popular workout location, is 242 stairs leading straight up to near the entrance to Kings Park. Go there early to share a great workout and fabulous views with half of Perth’s population. You will be sore for days.Lemon scented gum trees

Lemon-scented gum trees smell amazing and have a unique look. Find the column above at the entrance to Kings Park.

Western Australia coat of arms

In the Western Australia government coat of arms, the kangaroos are holding boomerangs!

wild kangaroos

Wild kangaroos! A thoughtful local took us to a lovely park-like cemetery north of Perth to do some kangaroo-spotting. They were all over the place, lounging in the shade and nibbling the grass.

Perth bike lanes

Extensive bike lanes follow the river, and lead into and around the city for bike commuters, bike sightseers, runners and walkers. Remember to stay in the left lane!

Australian raven

Perth coat of arms

The crows (actually ravens) here have the oddest voices, sort of like a long, strangled goat bleat–especially amusing when you get the Doppler effect from a flying crow. The birds around here are fantastic in general.

Friday food market

Twilight Hawkers Market in downtown Perth every Friday night serves tasty global street food in a festive atmosphere. Favorite stall (visually–we didn’t eat there): a French place that had a red carpet and chandelier.

I have a couple HP-relevant post planned, so this is just random travel musings; but I am happy to report the free range trend seems to be just as strong here as in Sydney!

HP visits Australia: Sydney

Favorite things about Sydney:

New Years Eve Sydney

Sydney Opera House

The Opera House. I cannot get enough of the Opera House. Well, I guess I’m not enamored enough to do a tour or go to a performance there, but I’ve taken 10000 pictures of it and I do plan to hit the Opera Bar.

Surry Hills. We’ve been escaping the tourists, camping out at cafes, drinking in hipster bars, and eating at nice restaurants without reservations. (The restaurants in the CBD we’ve tried have been overpriced with long waits, terrible service and average food.)

Baxter Inn

Baxter Inn. It’s a dark bar in a basement with more types of whisky than you’ve ever seen. And really good non-whisky drinks. Sit at the bar and watch the bartenders work.

Sydney Harbour

Sydney Harbour Bridge

Sydney Opera House from the Harbour Bridge

Running through the Botanical Gardens and over the Sydney Harbour Bridge. See “The Opera House” above.

Rainford Street Social

Rainford Street Social, our office away from home. The breakfasts are hearty and delicious, the coffee is fabulous (coffee here is not like coffee at home), they have decent, reliable wifi (good wifi is hard to find around here), and don’t seem to mind that we stay for hours upon hours. We do make an effort to keep ordering more coffees and fresh juices while we work so we’re not total deadbeats.

Free range eggs in Sydney

More relevant to this blog’s theme is the prevalence of free range eggs at cafes and groceries in Sydney. Stopping at a grocery, all the eggs we could find were labelled free range, and they are what was offered at the cafes we’ve breakfasted at–an improvement over what we typically see at home in the States. Are the pro-chicken laws stricter in Australia? Is societal pressure for happier hens greater here?

Now might be a good time to remind us all that “free range” just means the hens must have access to the outdoors; they can still be kept at high density in a barn, and the label doesn’t have anything to do with what they’re fed.

Currently in the state of Queensland, Australia, for a farm to use the free range eggs label, the maximum number of hens per hectare (1 hectare is approximately 2.5 acres) is 10,000, with a density of 12 hens per square meter within a barn [cite]. Contrast that with the EU, where free range hen density is 2500 birds per hectare, with each hen getting at least four square meters of space in a barn [cite]. As bad as the Queensland limits seem, they’re better than the other Australian states, which have no legal definition at all for free range [cite]. Slightly better than the majority of Australia is the US: the USDA definition of free range is that the hens have access to the outdoors. There are no maximum density regulations [cite].

So, it seems Australia and the US are way behind the EU in terms of the legal requirements of the free range label. Fortunately, consumers in all three places are exerting increasing pressure on producers and legislators to improve the quality of life of laying hens. Kudos to the cafes in Surry Hills like Rainford Street Social that use only free range eggs! And, as always, it’s important to keep pushing for change using your dollars. According to Compassion in World Farming, the leading farm animal welfare charity:

The simplest thing you can do to help the hens that lay your eggs is to buy free-range.

We’re off to Perth tomorrow to inspect the egg situation there!

Raleigh Farmers Market

Today we have a guest post from Nadia Cempré! Thanks, Nadia!

I have been dying to find an opening in my insane life to visit my sister Lamya in Raleigh–and this weekend when I finally made it happen, I could hardly sleep thinking about it for three very clear reasons:

  • I couldn’t wait to see my sister’s new condo.
  • I couldn’t wait to try out a Middle Eastern restaurant she’d been promising to take us to for good ol’ home-cooking.
  • The promise of the Raleigh Farmers Market in Summer time!

This last one is something I have been excited about for no less than 7 or 8 years, dating back to when my interest in the local food movement was first sparked. I distinctly remember watching the Travel Channel as they counted down the top 20 places for singles in their late 20s to meet others – and lo and behold in the top spot they name… the Raleigh Farmers Market.

I go to the Charlottesville City Farmers Market just about every Saturday morning during the season–it is my absolute favorite thing to do after my long marathon training runs, and the open and close of the Farmers Market season demarcate the start and end of a significant chapter in my life annually. I come alive when it’s announced in April, and retreat into a period of melancholy and reflection when it converts to a Holiday Market in November.

So you can imagine my surprise, as we took our time getting ready yesterday morning that the Raleigh Farmers Market is open year round, all day long, seven days a week!

Raleigh Farmers Market

The local food movement took its time inching its way out East from the West coast of the United States– but as it did, North Carolina and its Research Triangle area became leaders in the endeavor. Proximity to the heart of Southern farmland, combined with research, education, and support from the three surrounding universities conspired to produce a community hungry to support their families with local and responsible meats and produce.

The market is sponsored and supported by the North Carolina Department of Agriculture and Consumer Services, so it is very much a state-funded endeavor, and the state also sponsors a North Carolina Sustainable Local Food Advisory Council:

It is the purpose of the North Carolina Sustainable Local Food Advisory Council to contribute to building a local food economy, thereby benefiting North Carolina by creating jobs, stimulating statewide economic development, circulating money from local food sales within local communities, preserving open space, decreasing the use of fossil fuel and thus reducing carbon emissions, preserving and protecting the natural environment, increasing consumer access to fresh and nutritious foods, and providing greater food security for all North Carolinians.

For the past few years, the Charlottesville City Government has struggled with decisions regarding finding a permanent space for our quaint group of vendors and farmers. The Raleigh Farmers Market venue is the dream of every vendor–and every mom with a stroller in the middle of August. When we arrived we walked into one of the two massive permanent shelters that had constant fans blowing in every direction, and a permanent roof protecting from what can be a sweltering North Carolina sun.

As a matter of fact, they had Big Ass Fans.

Big Ass Fans

Right away, it was clear that this, just like in Virginia, was the month of the peach! They were everywhere! Plump, and beckoning, and promising of sweetness. The vendors were practically begging us to try samples, and even though we could hardly breathe from the local brunch offerings we’d just had, we couldn’t resist the peach slices.


Speaking of my brunch, I have been pleasantly surprised by all the local, responsibly-raised offerings in restaurants and have had no trouble finding poultry and meat options in Raleigh I can feel happy about. Here was the brunch I speak of, consisting of local eggs on Carolina crab cakes with seasonal fruit salad:

Raleigh Brunch

My youngest sister Mona had grand plans to make her famous Eggplant Lasagna for Lamya so the main purpose of the visit was to purchase the freshest ingredients for that. Eggplants were everywhere, and debates regarding the right size, color, and variety were intense.

Raleigh Eggplants

In the end however, fresh and local garlic, eggplant, tomatoes, and basil were all successfully agreed upon and taken home for the lasagna. The tomatoes were glorious and it was all I could do to stop myself from grabbing a pint of the cherry ones and munching right there and then!


The market was set up in an impressively organized fashion, and I quickly learned that produce was designated to either the right or the left of the shelter. One side was for vendors exclusively selling self-grown and farmed produce and plants. The other side was designated for items that might be re-sale. Everything under that first roof had to be North Carolina-produced. Interestingly, they didn’t define ‘local’ by radius, but rather by state. The rules meant that if it came from 4 hours away in North Carolina, you could sell it. However, if it came from 3 hours away in Virginia you could not. That was a designation of ‘local’ I hadn’t heard before but it made complete sense since the entire thing was an endeavor of the state.

The variety was staggering! Having done a fair amount of travelling I thought I had pretty much come across anything we can grow in America, but I found a delectable item called a canary melon that I had never seen before! It was delicious!

Canary melons Canary melon

The shelter was divided into three sections: produce, prepared and baked foods, and garden. Next on our agenda was to purchase three new indoor potted plants for my sister’s condo. I have never had a green thumb, and never been one to care about flowers, but it was hard not to get mushy at all the beautiful and unique floral and plant arrangements.

These plants in particular caught my eye; their bright purple veins appealed to the biologist in me, and my sister took home a darker variety.

Raleigh plants

Raleigh plants

Three plants later, we made our way to the most dangerous area, the prepared and baked goods section. Good thing we were so full already! I was able to control myself when it came to my weakness: fresh baked salt pretzels! But Lamya didn’t win her battle and walked away with a gorgeous loaf of ciabatta (for garlic bread with the lasagna!)

Raleigh pretzels

I learned that the huge sheltered building next door was a further expansion of this market. That building was where farmers from all over the country could share their goods. It was not limited to North Carolina produce, and there you could find Florida oranges, and Virginia eggs! Truly a one-stop-shop experience!

My favorite part of the Raleigh Farmers Market were all the little helpful signs that seemed to be a trend amongst vendors. Everywhere you looked, there were notes telling you how to cook, tend, water, and care for the various offerings.

Raleigh market signs

Raleigh market signs

The vendors were cheerful, friendly, and happy to be there, and the sense of safety and community abounded. I can’t wait to come visit again, and this time I’m bringing massive coolers so I can take things home to Virginia!