Farm Fresh Food and Friends
Roger Owens, owner of Owens Farms, has set up at the Watauga County Farmers’ Market for nearly a decade, bringing the seasonal produce from his farm to his neighbors’ dinner tables.
“The majority of the customers seem to appreciate the farmer and being able to meet the person that grew their food, and they know they’re getting it fresh,” he said. “It’s a very good atmosphere.”
The Watauga County Farmers’ Market in Boone has been around since the 1970s, holding the title, “Boone’s Town Square Since 1974,” market manager Tori Cox said, providing seasonal produce, eggs, meat, breads and even crafts every Wednesday and Saturday morning at Horn in the West from May to October.
In addition to the Watauga County Farmers’ Market in Boone, there are markets in Blowing Rock, West Jefferson, Banner Elk and in other towns and communities across the High Country.
After working on the farm for about 20 years and with his experience in the farmers’ market, Owens has seen an increase in popularity and attendance at the market.
Appalachian State sophomore Mary Grey Wilcox has gone to the market in Boone since she was 4 years old and continues to go today.
“A lot of it was a nostalgic kind of thing – I enjoyed doing it,” she said. “I was raised to eat well, and the prices are appropriate, and you may be getting something where you may not know where the food came from the grocery store.”
Wilcox’s most frequent and important purchase at the farmers’ market is the eggs, because they don’t come from “crazy factory farm chickens,” and occasionally meats, because the animals are grass-fed and not given antibiotics. “I buy meat there because it’s humane and tastes so much better,” she said.
And as far as produce goes, Wilcox goes for the reason Owens said people come: It’s local, and you know the grower. Wilcox said some vendors even started recognizing her – and her dog, Shiitake – when she comes.
“You kind of know the vendors, and they recognize you, and people started bringing treats for the dog,” Wilcox said. “They knew that I was coming, so they’d bring treats for Shiitake. “People are friendly.”
Watauga County Farmers’ Market president Bill Moretz has also been a vendor for 15 years and said this past mild winter won’t play too much of a significant role in this year’s produce.
Mild winter has helped some produce items to ripen earlier,” he said. “We have a vendor who raises tomatoes in a high tunnel, and he has had vine-ripened tomatoes since the second week in May. The mild winter hurt some tree fruit crops, due to early bloom and the ‘Easter Freeze.’”
For anyone coming to the market for the first time, Wilcox said to spend time talking to the vendors and get there early.
“I always get there early because the things that I want aren’t going to be gone, but if you get there late, they start marking down because they’re trying to get rid of stuff.”
Watauga County Farmers’ Market
591 Horn in the West Drive
Boone, N.C. 28607
Saturdays through Oct. 27, 8 a.m. to 12 p.m.
Wednesdays June 6 to Sept. 26, 8 a.m. to 12 p.m.
Ashe County Farmers’ Market
Backstreet, West Jefferson, N.C. 28694
Saturdays through Oct. 27, 8 a.m. to 1 p.m.
Wednesdays July 10 to Sept. 23, 8 a.m. to 1 p.m.
Valle Crucis Farmers’ Market
2918 Broadstone Road
Banner Elk, N.C. 28604
Wednesdays May 30 to Aug. 29, 2 to 6 p.m.
Banner Elk Farmers’ Market
Tate Lawn, Main Street
Banner Elk, N.C. 28604
Thursdays, 5 to 7 p.m.
Johnson County Farmers’ Market
110 Court St.
Mountain City, Tenn. 37683
Saturdays through Oct. 6, 9 a.m. to 1 p.m.
Blowing Rock Farmers’ Market
Thursdays, 4 p.m.
(828) 295-7851 - Blowing Rock Chamber of Commerce
Avery County Farmers’ Market
Saturdays in Newland, from June through October, 9 to 12 a.m. at the lot between CVS pharmacy and the Department of Social Service
Thursdays in Banner Elk, from April through September, 5 to 7 p.m. at Lees-McRae College