Tuesday, July 24, 2012

Old Salem Cobblestone Farmers Market Wins National Award

Farmers markets have been springing up all over the country like chanterelle mushrooms. Our nations insatiable demand for artisanal cheeses, heirloom varieties, pesticide free meats and produce has been a boon to small farmers and small batch producers, struggling to maintain their livlihoods within a corporate farming culture. It is all the more remarkable that the Old Salem Cobblestone Farmers Market  was ranked in the top 11 Farmers markets in a recent USNews roundup after only 8 weeks of operation. Travel writer Liz Weiss based her criteria on reputation, versatility, online reviews, and overall atmosphere.  Set amidst the historic gardens of the early Moravian settlers, this venue is a spectacular destination for a lively morning of shopping.

Single Brothers Garden Old Salem
The museum and the residents were looking for a farmers market to preserve the area's tradition of trade and to serve the surrounding urban neighborhoods.  Approaching Margaret Norfleet Neff and her daughter, Salem, of Beta Verde turned out to be a smart choice.

They founded their business Beta Verde together, and as long time residents of Winston Salem, care passionately about their community. Combining their love of horticulture and cooking, Beta Verde produces farm to table catered dinners and a delectable line of seasonal preserves and pickles. As experienced growers and farm market vendors, Margaret and Salem knew they wanted a juried selection of farmers who practice fair trade,  delivering food that is pesticide and hormone free. Visiting each and every applicant has paid off, as the quality of product draws the crowds.

Jane Morgan Smith, of Truffles N.C. hit the national news media when Martha Stewart flew down to North Carolina to film her orchard and proclaim her black Perigord truffles truly deserving of their decadent mouth watering reputation. I was lucky enough to catch her at work in Margaret's kitchen creating truffle salt, butter, honey and fudge for the farmers market. Its fun to see behind the scenes as vendors prepare their wares for market.

As Jane works I ply her with ignorant truffle questions and she chats away about her detour down the truffle path. My favorite part is about Friday, her truffle dog whom she describes as having an excellent work ethic. Friday sniffs through the orchard and sits when he finds the black gold. She trained him by hiding bits of truffle throughout the house, and telling him to: "find the truffles." She is quite proud his excellent vocabulary!
Moravian Band Plays for opening day

The Famous Friday Truffle Hunter

Meanwhile, Margaret was having a "Pitting Party" so I hung around since I have never seen preserves prepared. More ignorant questions followed, but the Beta Verde jams are super fruity with interesting combinations like the Blackberry Mint Whiskey Jam or Blueberry Basil. The Cherry Lemon preserves du jour had my mind racing with possibilities. I'm a breakfast girl, so I would warm them up and serve them over pancakes. 

They haven't invented a way to smell through your computer yet, but I did hang over the kettle repeatedly, with no objections from Lucy from the FDA NC who was on a routine inspection of the certified kitchen. I kept waving her over and believe me, we were like dog Friday in the truffle field. I never quite understood the path from farming, to small batch production to market, but now I have a better idea. The small batches make it much easier to control the flavors and textures. 

The vendors at the top juried markets endure rain, sleet, snow, or blight while they create new ways to preserve abundant or meagre harvest to bring to the table. It is a profound means to an end for those of us who are seriously playing with our food. 

Plus, farmers markets are fun, educational and social, compared to the business of rolling frantically through the grocery store. In a scary world, there is comfort in discussions with the people that reverently produce your food, as we intermittently pause and chat with friends. We share recipes and admire snoozy babies. 

There is music and humor, as we tuck into the shade and nibble our prizes. 

The market goes through November, so those of you who are going to High Point should stay through Saturday and shop the seasonal fare. 

Traditional Moravian Band Plays for Opening Day

So do not miss the spectacular heritage that is unique to Winston Salem. The furniture buffs in the crowd will not want to miss MESDA (Museum of Early Southern Decorative Arts),  a museum solely dedicated to the preservation, scholarship, and connoisseurship of southern decorative arts and material culture.
Here are some fun links for the food and history buffs 


  1. Wonderful for them.
    Now I'm hungry, bummed I don't live close enough to visit this obviously great market and in love with the truffle dog :)

  2. This is such fun! i love farmer's market and you are so fortunate to leave in Salem. Hope you are enjoying a great summer!

  3. I grew up visiting the farmer's market every Saturday morning. Yes, at 5:30 am, I am ready to go, and have been since I was 8 years old.
    Thank you for sharing this lovely group of ladies and their beautiful businesses.
    Hope that all is well with you, Liz.

  4. What a great post, Liz. It was fun having you in the kitchen and at the market. Friday says Hi.

  5. The pictures itself are so interesting. I am just imagining it must be such fun to be there in farmers market.
    NYC Exterminator


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