Southern Sojourn: A Spicy, Sweet, & Savory Farmers Curb Market

My husband, Stratton, and I, decided to take some time away from New England for a Southern Sojourn to Savannah, Georgia this month, and rather than just one stop along the way, we decided to make several, and that meant a road trip, which we absolutely crave at this time of the year. We began exploring on our first day, in Greensboro, North Carolina, where we were fortunate enough to be welcomed into the lovely home of an extended family member, whose dog liked to walk with his person, and anyone else who might enjoy the time spent outdoors. We were immediately right at home. After drinks and nosh, upon our arrival, we later made our way to the Carolina Theatre for a date out with another couple to see The Wailin’ Jennys, who were welcomed in grand surroundings, by an enthusiastic audience that connected with their every harmony throughout an evening of women’s folk, which is a kind of musical experience, so very different from any other. Find them in your area, whenever you might, and you will be glad that you did.

I realized the next morning, when our marvelous host, Rita, an accomplished career woman, and Interior Designer going strong at over 75 years of age, invited me to the local Farmers Market, that I may have discovered a kindred spirit, in this, my husband’s cousin’s aunt, from her father’s brother’s side of her family. I was delighted to accompany her, as I thought Oh, sure, I like Farmers Markets, and Ok, this might be nice, and, well, maybe I can find a gift for my dear cousin in the Washington DC area, who hosted us for previous nights before, and who we would see again on the return to home to Boston. I searched for my canvas tote in the back of our car, and off I went with Rita. On the short drive through her neighborhood to the market, she explained to me that the Greensboro Farmers Curb Market was old. Very, very old. In fact, it was founded by the city of Greensboro in 1874, and when she went there with her mother each week, as a young girl, there were live chickens available for purchase. Real live chickens. As in, vintage cookbook recipes that began, “wring the neck, pluck the feathers…,” and so on. You get the idea.

After we parked the car, we walked quickly past the doughnut maker, working at a stand outside the entrance, making doughnuts, with his sweet potato flour recipe. At this writing, I am clenching my teeth for not seizing the opportunity to buy and eat at least two of them, so marvelous was the scent of these traditional round fried cakes of sweetened dough with holes in the center, wafting in the sunny fresh morning Carolina air. Across the threshold, into the building where the market is housed, was fresh coffee on offer by another vendor, and at first, I thought I was an idiot for not seizing another chance to sip and nibble my way throughout the isles of abundance that awaited me. I was, but, not to worry, since I almost immediately forgot about sipping and nibbling, when I was overwhelmed by the vista of row upon row of some 120 vendors, each from within 100 miles of Greensboro, all together inside a building that provided free WiFi, and an ATM. An actual ATM. No running for any forgotten cash, that isn’t needed, really, as all the vendors are tech savvy with credit and debit cards, which is not always the farmers market experience at, say, a local New England supermarket parking lot on any given Saturday morning.

After she received an enthusiastic greeting from her, Rita immediately introduced me to Jennifer Zullo, of Syrup and More, where I bought a bottle of her homemade Elderberry tonic for better health and wellness. We chatted with her about her time spent in Boston, how she met her husband, the Red Sox tickets she had for upcoming games, her graduate degree program, and more, when I suddenly realized that everyone around us was doing the same thing that we were doing. They were enjoying engaging conversations, and like minded folks, with absolutely no thought for the current virus making its way around the world, no care for the latest shenanigans of the current President, and no concern over the plunging stock market. It felt like going to church, only better, because I could dispense with any perfunctory small talk, at which I do not excel, and folks were eager to connect through more genuine conversation, after passing the peace. I began to wonder how difficult it might be to relocate, for at least a part of the year, just to attend the bi-weekly meet-ups at the Greensboro Farmers Curb Market. Clearly, they were cultivating and distributing more than just goods and services, and the spicy, sweet, and savory interactions there, were all the more enhanced by the ease with which they welcomed newcomers — even from Boston.

Rita, who seemed to know everyone, and everyone likewise, seemed to know Rita, introduced me to Charlie, who I learned was among those who joined together to create the official Greensboro Farmers Curb Market as a non profit, producer only, organization, which means that everything you might buy at the market is produced by the person selling it to you. I enthusiastically bought a welcome supply of fragrant hand made soaps and candles from Mimi’s and Birch Fork Farm, actual stone ground, (yes, from an actual water wheel mill with an actual person operating it), yellow grits from, Old Mill of Guilford, which made Stratton’s eyes light up when I showed them to him, some extraordinary Rosemary Citrus, and Tex Mex seasonings from, Cornerstone, a pair of lovely new Sterling Silver hoop earrings that I had been seeking out, from Teresa Seal, and a whole bunch of fresh picked radishes, carrots, pea shoots, and other produce from a variety of vendors, who all greeted me with smiles, and kindness, and well wishes throughout my entire shopping experience. Each was glad to pass some time in conversation, sharing their expertise from their own areas of interest that pertained to their goods, and each sending me on my way, with a smile on my face. In all, I spent about $75 US dollars and trundled on home along with Rita, with the rich aroma of still warm focaccia that I bought at the last minute, and all my other treasures stored in the back of the car.

In addition to the wonderful opportunities on Wednesday and Saturday mornings from 7am until 12pm, to attend the Greensboro Farmers Curb Market, they partner with the city of Greensboro and other organizations to host, Kitchen Connects, which offers business training programs, and a designated table at the Greensboro Farmers Curb Market, for participants. They also have an Out of the Garden Project, which offers a shared use kitchen for low income communities, as well as, Fresh Food Access Options for SNAP/EBT, and Orange Card Market Token users. They also have a Seniors Farmers’ Market Nutrition Program, a WIC Farmers Market Nutrition Program, and they partner with Farmers Foodshare in North Carolina for the purchase of hunger relief agency donations. They offer a Kitchen Empowerment Program for Women, (you GO, girl!!!), which teaches interested folks with innovative ideas, about how to package, market, and sell their own products. And, they offer a Thank a Vet discount program, too. And if all that is not enough to convince you of the value of the Greensboro Farmers Curb Market, they also have a Kick the Bag to the Curb program for reusable bag donation and pick up.

If all that is still not enough, the Greensboro Farmers Curb Market has events! At this writing, their calendar shows that they hosted a Clean Juice Fundraiser in November, last, a Pietology Fundraiser, (yes, that is an actual thing… check out their website for more information about this fabulous foodie fun), a Holidays Show, a Stone Soup Fundraiser, a Pre-Thanksgiving Fundraiser, a Small Business Saturday, a Love Your Local French Toast event, and a Breakfast Taco Brunch Fundraiser. Each of these occasions are listed and described in the Greensboro Farmers Curb Market newsletter, to which you might subscribe, at their Website, the link for which you will find at the end of this essay. By now, you might wonder why I was so interested in writing about the Greensboro Farmers Curb Market, and if it has not been obvious to you, as yet, I’ll make it even plainer. Some folks travel to new places and new spaces in search of great music, or art, or food, or architecture, or history. Here, in Greensboro, North Carolina, a place where I have never ventured before, I discovered all that and more, in a space called, the Greensboro Farmers Curb Market, where they have been contributing such pleasures to their cityscape, since 1874.

Our American culture suffers from so many ailments, which are seemingly incurable. The collective society at large walk from experience to experience with tech devices as aides, and search engines as guides. In the midst of so many selections, we easily become lost in search of the one thing that each individual craves, even from within so much abundance. That which is as a balm for our empty souls and which longs for something more, has become seemingly elusive. It is a simple thing that our grandparents and great-grandparents knew and understood well. It nourishes our souls, makes our spirits soar, and even improves our general health. It provides extraordinary circumstances for engagement, outreach, education, information, relaxation, and much needed merriment. From it, we experience joy, compassion, patience, kindness, respect, and decency. It is called community. At Greensboro Farmers Curb Market, they grow community and distribute community in generous abundance. I’ve decided that my future travel will focus less on the extraordinary museums of the world, much less on the incredible architectural delights of the city, and even less on the grand accommodations of the remote location. In the future, I hope to discover more places like the Greensboro Farmers Curb Market, which I crave without even knowing. There, they have a tried and true recipe for community that is worth sampling and sharing around the globe.

http://www.gsofarmersmarket.org

Southern Sojourn: A Spicy, Sweet, & Savory Farmers Curb Market, by Robin Whitham McCrady, Copyright, 2020.

Wise Women, such as Midwives, Astronomers, Mathematicians, Healers, Philosophers, Herbalists, and Storytellers were once persecuted, as Witches,” from Wise Welsh Witch.

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