Make Friends with Farmers

The Western Wake Farmer s Market offers fresh,local goods every week.

By Carol Wills
Photos courtesy of Western Wake Farmers Market

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Looking for a happy place to spend Saturday
mornings in Morrisville? How about the Western Wake Farmers Market—a source of fresh local produce, delicious baked goods, outstanding coffee, crafts, and music? The market also sells meats and seafood, as well as cheese. You can find pickles, beets, and mushrooms, as well as fresh chicken eggs, duck eggs, and homemade soaps.

Some of the customers who have left reviews on the WWFM website say that they come every Saturday because the market is a source of delicious foods even in the wintertime. And besides, it’s just a great place to begin the weekend with a freshly baked sweet roll and a cup of really excellent coffee.

Jim Pellegrini, president of the Western Wake Farmers Market, has been in charge of the market for a number of years. He is dedicated to improving the resiliency of the local food system by increasing the participation of the community in local food consumption and by operating a robust marketplace that allows local food producers to earn a better living.  

The market operates as a 501(c)(3) nonprofit. It is unique in that it was founded by and is run by an all-volunteer board, predominantly local consumers, and three paid, part-time staff. The basis of WWFM’s nonprofit status is education of both consumers and producers. This year it will be celebrating its tenth year in operation, serving 30,000 customers every year and producing a total market turnover that exceeds $650,000 annually.

“The beauty of a local market,” says Pellegrini, “is that you can find excellent local produce any time of the year.” He emphasizes that the year-round market is a welcoming, family- and dog-friendly place. WWFM has music every Saturday morning, so visitors can enjoy being entertained while shopping for Sunday dinner.

In addition to the WWFM market space, a second location is being planned nearby. Named The Healthy Food Hub, it will be municipally owned and will include a demonstration garden. The space is scheduled to open in early summer, and this new site was partially enabled by a grant from the John Rex Endowment.

Pellegrini’s daughter, Emily Pellegrini, is the market manager at WWFM. Having always been interested in sustainable living, she comes to the job after graduating from Tulane University, where she managed the Green Wave Community Market, a student-run farmers and art market. “Our goal is to make the WWFM a productive civic space,” Emily says. “Civic spaces are an extension of the community and when they work well, they serve as a springboard for our public lives. People can come to buy local goods and find they are interacting with other members of the community in ways that they might not be able to do otherwise.”

She believes that prices have been kept too low for farmers, due largely to the industrial food system, and that the average consumer has little understanding of the real costs of growing and producing food. “This creates a breach in the local food scene, forcing our farmers to compete with one another for a limited customer base,” Emily notes. “There is a disconnect between the picturesque idea of a local farmers market and the economic realities of small-scale farming in an already highly capitalized industry.”

For her, the solution rests in being able to create a dialogue between consumers and farmers, to create a space where farmers and buyers can come together and consumers can begin to understand and appreciate the role of farming. As she explains, “The farmers know on a very fundamental level that farming is critical to a sustainable world, and they want to participate in creating and maintaining that culture. I think it’s crucial to start a dialogue that addresses the fact that we’re not going to be able to maintain a productive and economical civic space without the active engagement of our community.”

The Western Wake Farmers Market is located at 260 Town Hall Drive in Morrisville. Through Labor Day, the hours
are 8am until noon on Saturday and 3 to 6pm on Tuesday.

 

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