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The Durham Craft & Farmers' Market Sarah Derris

"All of the vendors at the Durham Farmers' Market are either certified Organic or follow those practices. We're really proud of what we do."

— Red Hawk Farms

Red Hawk Farms' vibrant display of turnips, beets and other tubular root vegetables. Red Hawk Farms is currently working toward becoming certified organic.

The Durham Farmers' Market is celebrating 20 years since its conception in 1998 and the Durham Craft Market is now in its 12th year, first opening in 2006. Originating in the old Durham Bulls ballpark's parking lot, the market has since found a home along the nearby stretch of Foster Street where dozens of vendors gather each weekend to market their wares. Vendors are not only committed to their craft and sustainably produced goods, but also seek to transcend the creative boundaries of their respective areas. The dedicated community of market-goers are passionate about locally-produced goods and are a driving force behind conscious consumerism.

Amy Sugg poses in front of her famous jams, which contain fruits sourced from her farm.

"My name is Amy Sugg, our farm is called Bonlee Grown Farm and is in a little town in Chatham county near Pittsboro. We were one of the original ten who started this market. We specialize in rosebud geraniums, we do all kinds of succulents and have a wide variety of jams, jellies, pickles and relishes that are all sourced from our farm..."

Customers can decide from an array of jams, butters and chutneys at the Farmers' Market.

"This is actually my original spot since the Durham Farmers' Market moved to this location. I love the market, it's such a worthwhile venture and I love the people. The direct and personal transaction with the source of the food is so important to customers. I am able to tell you how I grow the produce, and what's in my jams. I tell you because people love my fig jam. I have 30 year old fig trees, three varieties of figs and I make preserves out of them. They've never been sprayed and for people that's important — it's important to know what you're putting in your body."

—Amy Sugg, Bonlee Grown Farm

Alison McCandless poses with her knits, including her signature berry hats.

"I hand knit mainly children's hats. I graduated from the Fuqua School of Business in 1984 and began knitting in 2005 when my daughter was in sixth grade. I spend a lot of time making these hats, the shortest time I spend is three hours on the infant hats. My signature hat is the berry hat, and of course the Duke Berry hat is a staple in my collection. I don't sell online because it's such a pleasure interacting with my customers and personalizing their experience. Oftentimes the hats will become heirlooms and it's such a great thought that my hats become objects of sentimental value. It's so fascinating to hear where my hats have been. Some of them have been to Ireland and France and East Asia, each embarking on its own adventure."

— Alison McCandless, A Knitted Art

Christina's stand at the Durham Craft Market showcases radiant beaded jewels and embroidered designs.

Thank you to Junior Tala Fakhoury for translating.

"I started this stand seven years ago and I learned the craft from my mother and her mother before that. It's been a generational craft and now I am teaching my daughter how to create jewelry and needlepoint. My creations are inspired by my home country and it's a great way to occupy my mind so that I do not get sad or depressed. For me, making my art is therapeutic: I like to pay attention to detail and spend time perfecting my creation, which to me is more effective for my well-being than any professional or clinical health."

— Christina

The buzzwords "sustainable," "organic" and "locally grown" seem to permeate throughout the Durham Farmers' Market, but what is the significance of buying locally versus commercially? Oftentimes, small family farms may operate under sustainable practices but are unable to bear the expense and complete the paperwork that is required to obtain an organic certification. At one point, "informed" consumers were apprehensive about purchasing goods that were not certified organic, but the Durham Farmers' Market has since enlisted vendors who take care to avoid unethical practices.

Farmers adhere to sustainable agricultural practices while maintaining an eye for aesthetics.

"I own Ever Laughter Farms and we grow a variety of vegetables, flowers and plants. We've been operating for about 10 years. I really enjoy that Durham is such a busy, vibrant and diverse community and the town has been very supportive of the market. I like to grow things that taste delicious, are pretty to look out and can convince people to try. It holds true for all of the farmers that come to this market, but we are all concerned with sustainable agricultural practices and being stewards of our land."

— Will Kramer, Ever Laughter Farms

Many of Dooreen Jakob's works are tributes to Durham and North Carolina.

"I work with textiles and clay. The materials I use bring stories to life on clay and are functional artistic pieces. I joined the Durham Craft Market in 2011 and I've noticed that the city has changed so much since then. Some of my pieces document the Durham skyline and that's something I always have to modify due to how quickly the city is transforming..."

Jakob's pieces involve pressing textiles and textured materials into clay.

"What I find most interesting about the market is how it acts as an incubator for individuals looking to start a business and pursue their passions. Some vendors began at the Craft Market and have now established brick and mortar shops and expanded as businesses. I come from a family with a strong textile tradition and I apply that tradition to this pottery technique that I develop. I am an immigrant from Europe and used to be a researcher for the German Research Foundation but since coming to Durham, I find myself happiest when creating these functional and unique sentimental pieces."

— Doreen Jakob, Doora Ceramics

"We're Elodie Farms, located about 15 miles North of here on an old tobacco farm. It was built in 1914 and has been a goat dairy for 17 years. We've got 78 goats there right now, a mixed herd, and we make fresh goat cheeses. We put effort into taking care of the goats and making sure that they're healthy. The process involves milking the goats every day, pasteurizing the milk, separating the curds and whey and rolling the chèvre into logs — then we head to the market!"

—Ted Domville, Elodie Farms

Loofahs, made of dried and hollowed-out gourds, for sale at the Durham Farmers' Market.
"Good soil makes for good crops. Sometimes my husband and I say that we grow soil, not vegetables."

— Robyn Heeks, Heeks Farms

Although it may be a leisurely weekend activity, the Durham Craft and Farmers' Markets are not accessible to everyone. It is understandable that a great deal of time and care go into producing individual goods, but without subsidies to small farmers and the expense of quality materials, there will unequivocally be a segment of the Durham population that cannot participate in much of what the markets have to offer. Sustainability is an integral aspect of ecological health, and as these markets become more widespread, it is important to consider not only their constructive practicality but also the exclusivity that they can unintentionally perpetuate.

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Sarah Derris
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Sarah Derris

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