When it comes to healthy living, Fuquay-Varina has a wide variety of options. Fitness centers, health food stores, and restaurants with healthy food options are not hard to find, and our community offers health and fitness activities for families through community center and park programs that are focused on families. There are, however, a couple of new local initiatives that are rapidly growing in popularity. These two organizations, the Growers Market and the new Community Market Food Co-op, are prime examples of programs that embrace our local agricultural roots and provide families with even more options for enjoying healthy food and lifestyle options.
Grower’s Market of
The local growers market has actually been in existence for 28 years, thanks to the efforts of RB Mason and “Mater Man.” They have faithfully set up their booths every Saturday since the late 1980s, and paved the way for the Growers Market of Fuquay-Varina to become what it is today. By 2011, however, the market was down to 1-2 vendors, and Mayor John Byrne asked Naomi Riley of the Fuquay-Varina Revitalization Association to help revive it and bring it back to life. “It was easy to see how it fit into our mission of downtown revitalization,” Riley explains. “We were beginning expanding our programs and helping the growers’ market transition into something new and dynamic was a win-win for downtown businesses.”
The market was reintroduced in 2012, much to the delight of local residents. During the first year of Riley’s assistance, a fresh face from Miami began assisting with the market as a volunteer. Chef Joe Fasy began offering his expertise and quickly became the creative force behind its re-generation. By the second season in 2013, a USDA grant was secured to hire him as a part-time market manager. It also allowed the market to accept EBT payments, opening up the market to lower income families for the first time.
During his first year as the manager, the Grower’s Market was featured on NC Flavor with local food celebrity Lisa Prince, and won a national award from the National Association of Counties for its partnership with Wake County Health and Human Services. Spurred on by the instant success of the newly reenergized market, Chef Joe and his crew enthusiastically continued to grow the market through the 2014. Capitalizing on the success of the growing season, a winter market formed in 2014 for the first time, under the tutelage of Judy and Joe Montague – providing local products and crafts every Wednesday and Saturday throughout off-season.
Thanks to the hard work by the Fuquay-Varina Downtown Association and Chef Joe’s team of local enthusiasts, the popularity of the Growers’ Market has increased to the point that the market is ready to step up to the next level. In 2015, the market received a grant from the John Rex Foundation that will allow the EBT payment option to continue, and pays for both a full-time market manager and assistant market manager. These positions will work year-round, which will allow them ample time for planning and outreach, which is the primary objective of the organization moving forward. “We have incorporated and have applied for our 501c(3) status,” says Fasy. “We have also hired Chelsea Konowsky as our new assistant market manager. We have moved the market to a great new location where we have the ability to expand and offer exciting new programs for kids and the community. We are so excited about 2015!”
Farmer’s markets are well-known for their fresh produce and local products, but the markets of this decade have become a bustling meeting place for residents who are looking for a more hands-on experience in buying food. “You actually get to meet the guy who picked your tomatoes that morning,” Fasy explains. “We offer lots of heirloom products that you can’t find in a traditional grocery store, plus you get to ask questions of the folks who grow and harvest your food. We offer cooking demonstrations, planting expertise, herbs and other extras, in addition to music and a festival-like atmosphere that the whole family can really enjoy.”
The new location at the Fuquay-Varina Chamber of Commerce on Main Street provides ample parking and great visibility. Each month the market will feature a different commodity, such as strawberries, corn, watermelon, and sweet potatoes. The main outreach focus will be on children’s programs, which they hope to extend into the schools in the off-season with the “Chefs Move to the Schools” program created by Michelle Obama. “Kids get so clouded by packaged, non-healthy foods,” shares Chef Fasy. “We hope to get them excited about how food is grown and how they can help produce their own. We also hope to introduce them to fresh food that tastes good instead of product that has been in a store for several weeks and has lost all its flavor.”
The Grower’s Market of Fuquay-Varina opened for the season on Saturday, May 9th and will be open on Wednesdays from 3-6 pm and Saturdays from 9am-1pm through October. For more information about the market, check out their website at www.growers-market.org or visit them on a Wednesday afternoon or Saturday morning on Main Street to see what they’re all about!
Community Market Food Co-op
The concept of food and grocery cooperatives has been around for a number of years, and North Carolina is fortunate to have seven such stores already in full operation. The Community Market in Fuquay-Varina is one of four more that are in various stages of development. The food cooperative movement is well-organized and shows an awareness of the benefits of buying local produce and fair trade products.
Weaver Street Market in Carrboro/Chapel Hill and Deep Roots Market in Greensboro are two popular examples of cooperative grocery stores. Cooperatives are owned by their members, who receive lifelong benefits such as discounts, bulk purchasing opportunities, and profit sharing. Similar to Whole Foods in terms of the quality and diversity of products, grocery cooperatives are open to the public but are owned and run democratically by a board of directors that is elected by the member-owners of the corporation.
“Local food growers can’t sell their products through national supermarket chains because they don’t produce at a high enough volume,” explains the Fuquay-Varina-based market’s chairman of the board Tammie Quick. “A cooperative grocery store is a natural fit to link local growers with local buyers.”
The Community Market project in Fuquay-Varina was the brain child of Quick and some friends who had been involved in various fair trade and community garden projects together. They were tired of having to drive to other communities to purchase high-quality products for their families. They began to talk about the idea of opening a community-based grocery store in 2011, and discovered the cooperative business model early on.
“People don’t get the concept yet,” Quick shares. “We still have a lot of educating to do, and we need to continue to add members before we can jump into the next phase. We have hired an outreach coordinator to help with those challenges and are getting closer and closer to opening day!”
The store, once it’s open, will offer most features of a large supermarket—meats, seafood, dairy, local and regional produce, and paper/household products. It will also feature fair trade and organic projects, a hot and cold bar with a seating area, bulk purchasing options, and even entertainment on the weekends. “We are trying to balance the needs of our increasingly fast-paced society with healthy alternatives for eating and living,” says Quick. “We are considering drive-thru capability right from the beginning, as that seem to be one of the trends of the future, even with healthy living.”
Educating the public on healthy living concepts, including cooking and food preparation classes, is one of the seven basic principles of the cooperative model. Another is concern for the community in which the market is located, and the Community Market is no exception. “We intend to give back to the community at a much higher percentage than our national chain counterparts,” claims Quick. “We are also very proud of the fact that our store will employ up to 80 local residents, so we will be making a significant positive impact on the local economy.”
The Implementation phase of the project begins once the board has selected a location for the store. When that happens, there will be a national search for a general manager and a capital campaign to raise the funds for construction and/or upfitting. They are hoping to have the site selected by this summer, with a grand opening in late 2015 or early 2016. For more information about becoming a member or helping with the development of the project, please check their website at www.thecommunitymarketcoop.coop or call outreach coordinator Stacy Sherman at (919) 649-6204.