Guide to Outer Banks farmers markets: community and creativity
By Maddie Lutz/Correspondent
For the Outer Banks, community is everything. The local farmers markets are one of the best ways that community is celebrated on the islands. From Duck to Roanoke Island, the Makers Market, Dowdy Park Farmers Market, Secotan Market and Manteo Downtown Market host a variety of local talent every week. Incredible ceramicists, locally famous bakers, unbelievable metalsmiths and skilled woodworkers showcase the skill sets that flourish throughout the community. All four of the mentioned markets foster a wonderful sense of warmth and inclusivity, but the goods and activities that they offer differ. Consider this your guide to when, where and what to expect from each.
Where: 1314 Duck Road, Duck
When: Wednesdays through August 25, 2021; 3-6 p.m..
First impression: Beautiful location, smiling vendors and clients; charming.
Incredible location: In addition to a beautiful view of the Currituck Sound, Makers Market is conveniently located under The Village Table & Tavern, a casually upscale waterfront restaurant. Shoppers can come over after parasailing next door at Nor’Banks Sailing and Watersports and grab a bite to eat to finish off the evening.
Unique vendors: Organizer Jennifer Minnich makes it clear that this isn’t the typical farmers market dedicated to fresh produce — vendors’ wares range from jewelry, pottery, wall art and foods, including honey, breads, freeze-dried treats and more. The convenient northern location attracts vendors from the Currituck mainland and Corolla since it’s closer to the bridge than other markets on the island. Additionally, new vendors are more likely to snag a spot since this is a smaller, newer market, which started in March 2021. Around 20 total vendors rotate through the market, so you’ll see different faces from week to week.
What people say: Vendor Marla Wales, owner of Beads By the Beach, describes Makers Market as, “inclusive and inviting.” It was fairly easy to get involved, too, according to Wales, thanks to Minnich’s kind and welcoming attitude.
Dowdy Park Farmers Market
Where: Dowdy Park 3005 S. Croatan Highway, Nags Head
When: Thursdays through September 9, 2021; 9 a.m.-1 p.m.
First impression: Busy and big with lots of happy dogs and children
Variety: Upwards of 60 local vendors bring forth a wide range of goods spanning from original artwork to homemade spice rubs.
Thoughtful organization: This market exists through community investment. When Dowdy Park was built a few years back, Nags Head residents received a survey about what they wanted out of the park. When the results were in, a farmers market was at the top of the list. Since then, the market planners have met weekly to create a series of efficiently operated events with a diverse assortment of vendors. Paige Griffin, the Town of Nags Head’s event coordinator, corresponds frequently with organizers of other farmers markets in the area to ensure that any vendors who didn’t get a spot at the Dowdy Park Farmers Market have one elsewhere. This incredible behind-the-scenes collaboration is what makes this series so outstanding for visitors and vendors alike.
Education: Young entrepreneurs are encouraged and supported by the Town of Nags Head’s event coordinator, Paige Griffin, who describes education as a cause “near and dear to [her] heart.” Throughout the summer, expect to see middle and high school students showing off their creativity at the park. Goods including innovative skateboard rings, crocheted works, bathing suits and original artwork from local kids will be up for grabs periodically.
Volunteer opportunities: There are always volunteer opportunities at the Dowdy Park Farmers Market. Contact Paige Griffin at 252-489-8551 for more information.
What people say: When asked what this market means to her, Paige Griffin speaks for Nags Head, saying,”[This market] means community. It means supporting each other and encouraging each other through education and opportunity. It creates a partnership and provides an opportunity to see each other collaborate and work together on projects. Additionally, we get to shop local and support neighbors and friends as well as get to know others.”
Manteo Farmers Market
Location: 106 Fernando Street, Manteo
When: Saturdays through September 18; 8 a.m.-noon
First impression: Vibrant, social, lots of variety, great location.
Fresh produce: NC Agriculture offers abundant local produce including fruits, vegetables, nuts and mouth-watering lemonade. Additionally, market organizer Tim Teeple is in the process of adding some fresh seafood from local fishermen into the mix.
Range of talent: Woodworkers, leatherworkers, glassmakers and candlemakers aren’t found at the other farmers markets on the beach. The spread of this market is incredible.
Fantastic location: Right smack in the middle of Manteo’s historic town and overlooking the sparkling water, it truly doesn’t get more beautiful than this. Before or after your time at the market, be sure to check out the wonderful shops and small businesses around the waterfront.
What people say: Teeple is beyond ecstatic to be celebrating the market’s 15th year of operation after having to close up shop last year due to COVID-19. He suggests visitors come before their rental check-in – it’s a great opportunity to stock up on local goods and produce before hitting the beach or unpacking.
Where: 2868 N.C. Highway 345, Wanchese
When: Saturdays May to September: 8 a.m.-noon (check out secotanmarket.com/schedule for the holiday and off-season schedule, too)
First impression: Lots of food, gorgeous pottery, farmstead chic.
Food: This market is all about food. You can get everything from local blueberries to Harrison Microgreens, grown in Nags Head and distributed throughout the Outer Banks. Everything is locally sourced and organic. With the right planning, you could knock out your weekly grocery shopping here.
Soul: The heart and effort that went into this market show. It is diligently organized, 100-percent locally sourced and has plenty of delicious options.
Originality: In addition to the exceptional selection of produce, you will also find several talented vendors selling jewelry, artistic loose-leaf journals, medicinal plants, kombucha, sourdough and more.
Quality: Eric Soderholm, who organizes the market with Ladd Bayliss, says, “Each producer that seeks to join Secotan Market undergoes careful review by the Secotan Market Advisory Board. We take time to verify the origin of our vendors’ products, ensuring that they have been intimately involved in growing or creating them. That way, our customers can be assured that they are not being misled or buying resale products. Hard work, honesty and transparency are the pillars of this endeavor.”
What people say: “To us, Secotan Market means the opportunity to channel the same spirit of shared passion and teamwork from the Wanchese Produce days to create a place that can help feed our community,” Soderholm says. “[…] in our small community, we must be propelled by the things that bring us together and unite us. Secotan Market represents a small but vital effort here in northeastern North Carolina to rekindle an era where neighbors rely on each other, and we can focus on the lost art of listening to and respecting one another.”