Celebrating Durham’s Black-owned Farms and Markets
Black farmers need help now more than ever, and we need the quality food they provide.
Posted By Natalie Minott
For most of our lives, we’ve eaten our food without really knowing what it takes to move it from point A to point Z along a supply chain. From the coffee that gives us a boost in the mornings to the eggs, fruit, and bread on our breakfast plates, everything we eat and drink comes at least in part from a farm.
Farmers are a special breed of people. Not only do they spend hours stewarding their land and taking care of their animals to grow healthy and delicious food, but they also contribute largely to their communities. According to the recent Census of Agriculture taken in 2017, less than 2% of the 3.4 million farmers in the United States today are Black. A century ago, there were more Black-owned farms, but sadly, a long history of racial violence, unfair lending and land ownership policies, and lack of access to necessary loans and insurance, has contributed to their decline.
In North Carolina, Black farmers run about 1,500 of the state’s farms. Some of those farms are right here in Durham. These Black farmers are growing culturally relevant food and working to restore food sovereignty, connect communities with healthy options, and increase access to growing food – work that is deeply tied to land ownership and liberation. With all that in mind, here are five incredible Black-owned farms, markets, and platforms in Durham that you can support.
With music, food vendors, games, dancing, fresh produce, and more, The Black Farmers' Market is the place to be. Once a month (from March to November) you can shop from numerous Black vendors in an inclusive, fun, community-centered marketplace and intentionally keep dollars circulating in the community.
In 2018, Moses Ochola, Ja’Nell Henry, and Crystal Taylor, the group behind Black August in the Park — an annual Durham-based event to creatively connect and inspire people of African descent — hosted the first Black Farmers’ Market. According to their website, the Market’s mission is “to inspire a self-sufficient community that supports and protects Black farmers and entrepreneurs.” Stop by the Market when it opens in the spring to support Black farmers, Black restaurants, and Black businesses in the community.
There’s no need to ask Durham farmers Derrick and Paige Jackson whether the chicken or egg came first. At Grass Grazed Farm, it all started with chickens and quickly grew into so much more. Located in North Durham, the farm is on a mission to help people understand where their food comes from by being transparent and removing the mystery behind meat. With 160 acres of farmland, their livestock is raised on pasture from birth to finish, producing high-quality protein.
Derrick and Paige invite you to their farm to experience a farm-to-fork meal. Reserve a ticket to their popular dinner series, "The Farmers Table," where you get to meet and talk to the farmers who work the land. You can also rock some Grass Grazed swag around town or become a member and get wholesome, clean, protein delivered to your doorstep the next time you're hosting friends and family.
Jireh Family Farm is a small family farm in Durham that provides free-range eggs, whole chicken, permaculture pork, Angus beef, and more. In 2021, the farm launched an herb garden, so you can also pick up fresh basil, lemon thyme, lemongrass, oregano, mint, and other culinary herbs.
In an attempt to share their passion for farming, the owners began offering classes to inspire and incorporate hands-on learning into agriculture. They host a backyard chicken class, gardening seminars, herbal immune support, and herbal medicine-making classes.
Stay tuned for their upcoming Jireh Farm store which will open in spring 2022. It will offer farm-to-table meats such as eggs, pork, beef, goat, and chicken cuts for the Durham area. Supporting the new store will re-connect customers with the food they eat, keep resources within the community, and help sustain the family farm. They also plan to convert an existing, free-standing garage into an event space, so keep them in mind as you start planning small to mid-size events like pool parties, gardening classes, and graduations.
Founded in 1970, Perkins Orchard is a unique fruit and vegetable market in the heart of Southeast Durham. From February to December, they offer seasonal fruits and vegetables from local growers as well as local honey, specialty ciders, funnel cakes, Perkins pops, and locally produced jams, jellies, and condiments.
Take advantage of their $20 bag special, which includes a free item (sometimes a watermelon or pineapple) with your entire bag of fruits and veggies. Owner Donovan Watson also invites food trucks and hosts fun family events and activities throughout the year.
The Netflix docuseries “High on the Hog: How African American Cuisine Transformed America” took the nation on a journey as the show’s host explored and discussed African American culinary history. People were especially captivated by Gabrielle E. W. Carter, chef, preservationist, and co-founder of Tall Grass Food Box, and the work she is doing to preserve African American culture here in North Carolina.
During the pandemic, Carter, alongside Gerald C. Harris and Derrick Beasley, created a platform to directly support local Black farmers. With bi-weekly food subscription boxes, the trio distributes fresh produce from North Carolina’s Black farmers to businesses and residents in Durham and across the Triangle.
Check out their merch (like a dope “Pay Black Farmers” or okra shirt) and get a subscription for a spring order of fresh produce at their Durham pickup location.
We encourage you to be intentional about where you shop and do what you can to support Black farmers and Black-owned businesses throughout the year!