The height of summer is the perfect time to declare your independence from boring food. Set yourself free from weeks-old produce and bland, sodium-pumped meats by visiting one of Charlotte’s many farmers’ markets, where fresh and flavorful ingredients await.
We have been blessed with a recent surge in new and expanding markets, so you’re forgiven for feeling a little intimidated by choice. Let us lead the way with our brief guide on some of the most popular ones in town — with more than times and locations, but also some insight into just how local they are, what they’ve got going on besides food sales, and even what kind of vibe you can expect. Because if you’re going to rise for revolution early on a Saturday, you want to be with your kind of people.
Location: 1801 Yorkmont Road.
Hours: Tuesday-Saturday, 8 a.m.–6 p.m.; Sunday, 12–6 p.m. (shorter hours during the winter months)
Parking: On-site lot, though you may have to hunt a bit during the busy hours.
Vendors: 70 – 130 on Saturdays
Vendor criteria: Depends on the building. Building A is all North Carolina products, vendors must produce 51% of their offerings.
Highlights: Check out the delectable pastries of Renaissance Patisserie (Building B) and the high-quality cheese, butter and pasta of Uno Alla Volta (Building C).
Non-food items: The third building has crafts, woodworking and other non-edibles.
Dog Friendly: No
Regular & upcoming events: Monthly promotional days, usually highlighting a specific product, like tomatoes or watermelon.
Subsidized by the NC Department of Agriculture, the Regional Market has by far the widest variety and greatest number of vendors. You'll rub elbows with all sorts here, from health-conscious couples toting NPR-branded bags to immigrant families looking for familiar ingredients.
This is as close as you can get to a grocery store experience, with a full selection of meats, cheeses, prepared foods and nursery plants. However, shoppers hoping to support local farmers must pay attention. Many of the large vendors are resellers, offering commodity produce brought in from Florida, California or even other countries.
That's no reason to stay away, for many of the area's smaller farms are here too. Chat up the folks behind the tables and you'll soon find your own reliable favorites.
Location: 2000 South Blvd., inside the building housing Oku, Warby Parker and Anthropologie
Hours: Saturday, 9 a.m.–2 p.m.
Parking: On-site lot, gets full at peak times.
Vendors: 20-ish vendors.
Vendor criteria: Within 100 miles.
Highlights: Not Just Coffee is a big draw, though not technically a market vendor
Non-food items: Jewelry, pottery, soap, flowers, candles.
Dog Friendly: Yes.
EBT/SNAP: In the works.
Regular & upcoming events: None planned
Recently moved from the historic trolley barn to a smaller, air-conditioned space between Living Kitchen and Savory Spice, Atherton is a hipster's paradise. With hot lattes in hand, young (and ok, not so young) upscale shoppers find this a convenient place to find clean local food, support favorite vendors and socialize.
Atherton also runs later than most markets, though traffic drops after 11:00 a.m. It's gone through several metamorphoses as it's grown, but Atherton has many loyal customers. Property owner Edens has expressed its own devotion to keeping the market through the upcoming transformation of the Atherton Mill complex, so while it may require some hunting, rumors of this market's demise are unfounded.
Location: 309 S. Sharon Amity Road.
Hours: Saturday, 8 a.m.– 12 p.m. May through October.
Parking: On-site lot.
Vendors: 21 vendors.
Vendor criteria: Within 100 miles, annual visits by market management.
Non-food items: Flowers, soap, biweekly knife sharpener
Dog Friendly: Sort of ... not inside the market, but volunteers will hold your pooch at the entrance while you shop.
Regular & upcoming events: Weekly chef demonstrations and small musical groups. July 4th event TBA.
This market opened in 2016 as a community project of the local Rotary group and is still establishing its own character. Unusually, the organizers sought out corporate sponsors—notably Carolinas Medical Centers—before launching. That's in part because, though food-focused, the Cotswold market seeks to branch out beyond produce, by offering space to nonprofit organizations and educational activities for both adults and children. Even the musical groups and food truck have Cotswold ties, as do most of the customers you'll run into.
Location: 120 S. Main St., Davidson. The market stretches along two parking lots, next to Summit Coffee and the Town Hall.
Hours: Saturday, 8 a.m.–12 p.m; In winter, alternating Saturdays, 9 a.m.– 12 p.m.
Parking: Several nearby parking lots.
Vendors: Over 35 vendors.
Vendor criteria: Producer/grower only, within 100 miles, annual visits by market management.
Highlights: Water buffalo cheese at Fading D, hand-ground grits, flour and cornmeal at Coldwater Creek.
Non-food items: Lavender & related products.
Dog Friendly: No
EBT/SNAP: Yes, the market matches up to $20.
Regular & upcoming events: Regular chef demonstrations; July 1st Kids' Chopped Competition, several annual events.
Davidson market is celebrating its 10th year in 2017, and it has certainly grown out of its infancy. What used to be a half-dozen vendors gathered in a parking lot has blossomed into a regular Saturday happening, with music, events and hundreds of shoppers, supported by an active group of volunteers.
Gather all your food groups here, including prepared meals from Beverly's Gourmet and Chef Charles Catering. You'll see lots of professorial types and people stopping in after (or during) a morning run or bike ride, as well as children of all ages grooving to tunes from the bandstand. You might see a few Davidson students too, but families predominate these morning hours.
Location: 188 N.Trade St., Matthews.
Hours: Saturday, 8 a.m.–12 p.m.; In winter, 8 a.m.–10 a.m.
Parking: Small grass on-site lot, on-street and a public lot a short walk away
Vendor criteria: Within 50 miles, only the producer or family members may sell, annual visits by market management
Highlights: New Town Farm is a founding farm and has some of the best produce, occasional eggs and meat. Charlotte Fish Company brings seafood directly to market from its own boats.
Non-food items: Pottery, soaps.
Dog Friendly: No.
Regular & upcoming events: Weekly chef demonstrations and musical groups; June 24th beehive demonstration; regular annual events.
Matthews is the granddaddy of the small independent markets, having recently celebrated its 25th year. It also has the most stringent application of the local-food ethos: the board is comprised strictly of farmers, it has the tightest radius for sourcing and on-site food trucks must source from the market. Matthews also boasts the most well-established calendar of events, with weekly chef demonstrations on a newly installed patio, and regular dates celebrating everything from herbs to tomatoes. Customers here are well-versed in the stories behind the farms and their products, and don't mind waiting in line for particular favorites. One important piece of advice: get here before the opening bell for the choicest items, because sometimes, ya snooze, ya lose.
Location: 514 E. 36th St. Parking lot next to Smelly Cat Café. Winter and rainy days inside Neighborhood Theater.
Hours: Saturday, 9 a.m.-12 p.m.
Vendors: Number varies, about 10–12 in summer.
Vendor criteria: Food only, must reside in North or South Carolina.
Highlights: Greeneman's brings in jars of local sauces, preserves, etc. Orrman's Cheese Shop has a great selection of cheeses and other local food products.
Non-food items: Not at the market, but in summer NoDa Eclectic Marketplace sets up next door with gift items.
Dog Friendly: Yes.
Regular & upcoming events: None announced yet.
Two years old last month, NoDa is the little market that could. Started by Joey Hewell and Scott Lindsley, owners of NoDa Company Store and general neighborhood force of nature, this producers-only market does not charge vendors for space. Instead, the couple do fundraising to meet market costs — step over to the Company Store to help by buying a market t-shirt.
As for shoppers, "diversity" is more than a buzzword in this area, and Saturday mornings are no exception. Customers may range from fit retirees to recent immigrants to sorority sisters or anyone in search of clean, sustainable food. Grab a squeezed-to-order lemonade and join the laid-back crowd.
Location: 3100 Selwyn Ave., Mouzon United Methodist Church.
Hours: Wednesday, 3–7 p.m.
Parking: On-site lot, enter on E. Woodlawn Road.
Vendors: 14 vendors, plus a food truck
Vendor criteria: "Local," no site visits performed.
Highlights: Mecklenburg County Market has the widest selection of produce.
Non-food items: Pet foods and treats, fair trade clothes, jewelry, leather goods, etc.
Dog Friendly: Yes.
Regular & upcoming events: None planned.
Selwyn made the list for two reasons: it's the newest entry into the farmers' market gang, and it operates on a weekday. The church asked how it could serve its community, and the community answered "farmers' market." Since April 19th, the church's back parking lot has hosted a small collection of local vendors, most familiar sights at other local markets. The market is still finding its feet—things are slow until the after-work crowd shows up around 5:30, but there's music, local barbecue and a good selection of produce, meats and cheese.