By Kelly Clark, Market Community Advisory Board Member and Erin Jobe, Former Market Manager
The Carrboro Farmers’ Markets are operated by The Chapel Hill-Carrboro Farmers’ Market, Incorporated. Prior to 1977, there had been a series of markets in the Chapel Hill area, which were run informally by a group of area farmers. The move to Carrboro began in 1977 with two simultaneous events.
First, a project was under development by a graduate student at the University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill School of Public Health, called the North Carolina Agricultural Marketing Project. The project’s goal was to provide an outlet for local farmers to sell their produce on a regular basis while providing townspeople greater access to high quality fresh produce.
Second, the town of Carrboro was investigating ways to assure that the downtown area remained an active and vibrant part of the community. In an effort to meet this goal, the town successfully sought funding from the NC General Assembly to build a shelter for a farmers’ market. The university project helped the farmers formalize an organizational structure, and the town selected The Chapel Hill-Carrboro Farmers’ Market to run a market under the new shelter on Roberson Street on land leased from Carr Mill Mall.
The Market grew steadily from 1978 to 1989. Starting with barely 20 vendors in 1978, the number had increased to 50 by the mid 80s, and 90 vendors were selling, over the course of a market year by 1989. This also marked the year that the lease on the Carr Mill Mall space expired. The Market needed a new home, and the town did not want the Market to leave Carrboro. An agricultural grant was sought to build new shelters and complete necessary site improvements at the Carrboro Town Commons, a recreational area under development adjacent to Town Hall. In 1993 the grant was approved, and in 1996 the Carrboro Farmers’ Market opened in its new location.
Since its inception the Market has been completely farmer run, meaning the vendors themselves govern the market membership and the rules. In an effort to preserve the quality of the relationship between the vendors and customers, the business owner must be present each week to sell. This rule is unique to the Carrboro Farmers' Market. Additionally, all products must be produced within a strict 50 mile radius of Carrboro, by the vendors themselves, who must also live within 50 miles of Market.
The Town of Carrboro continues to be a fantastic partner and advocate for the Market. In the winter of 2017/2018, 23 years after Town Commons was first established, the Commons underwent renovations. New features include on-site restrooms, additional lighting, irrigation, new grass, a fenced-in playground and more accessible parking. The Ribbon Cutting Ceremony for the newly renovated Town Commons was held on Opening Day of the Carrboro Farmers' Market's 40th season.