Midtown Raleigh News

Downtown Raleigh Farmers Market opens season Wednesday

Fred Miller has been bringing his organic produce to the Raleigh Downtown Farmers Market for several years, since before it moved to City Plaza on Fayetteville Street.

But this Wednesday, Miller is going to have to make room in his truck for his drums, too; his band is part of the festivities to celebrate the market’s opening for the season.

Big Head Dog Band, a rock group that many will recognize from a range of local venues including 42nd Street Oyster Bar and Hurricanes’ pregames, will perform from 10:30 a.m. to 1:30 p.m. “We don’t usually play that early in the morning,” Miller said.

Miller, owner of Hilltop Farms in Willow Spring, is the only farmer in the group of five.

“I’m not even sure if the rest of the band even eats vegetables,” he joked.

The first market of the year will also include a pig pickin’ and children’s activities. Barbecue sandwiches from The Pit will be on sale for $5.

Bob Garner, The Pit’s “minister of barbecue culture” and a Southern food expert, will be on hand to talk about the yellow-cabbage collards that the restaurant recently began serving. The variety is more tender and flavorful than the commonly used green Georgia collards, Garner said.

“It’s like the holy grail of collards,” he said. “They’re just awesome.”

An Edgecombe County farmer supplies the yellow-cabbage collards, which Garner explained are not grown by large, commercial farms.

“The seeds have been passed down in his family for almost a whole century,” Garner said.

Market goers will have a chance to sample the collards cooked by The Pit around 12:30 p.m. and also can buy some fresh ones.

Beyond the opening, farmers market organizers have big plans for this year, said Hallie Mittleman, director of sustainability with the Downtown Raleigh Alliance.

The market will be focusing on giving people grab-and-go options for lunch, Mittleman said. And the last market of each month will be dubbed “Wellness Wednesday,” with features such as tastings of foods that are in season, blood-pressure screenings and recipe demonstrations.

One new vendor will be Ray Family Farm from Louisburg, which was recently named a Champion of Change by the White House. The weekly initiative highlights “ordinary Americans who are doing extraordinary things” to meet the challenges of the 21st century.

Chad and Jodi Ray practice sustainable farming and are known for their pork and beef products.