Farmers’ Market Celebrates 10 Years in the Park

Opening Day of the Durham Farmers’ Market, 2007 (credit: Eunice Chang)

This Saturday, April 1st, the Durham Farmers’ Market begins its 10th season in Durham Central Park! If you’ve ever wondered how the Durham Farmers’ Market found its home in the Park, here’s a brief history of how it all came together…

The Early Years of the Market

The Durham Farmers’ Market (DFM) started in 1999, with a handful of farmers setting up in the gravel parking lot of the Old Durham Ballpark. The farmers and vendors, all of whom were (and still are) located within 70 miles of Durham, gathered every Saturday during the main growing season – April to November. In their first few years, they had to move around whenever there was a Saturday event at the Ballpark. But, even so, they quickly became a Saturday morning institution.

This location obviously wasn’t ideal. As they grew and became more established, they moved up the street to Measurement Incorporated’s parking lot on Morris Street (where their old sign still resides). Around the same time that they moved to their new parking lot, DFM started discussions with Durham Central Park about the possibility of building a permanent structure in the Park for the Market to call home.

Pavilion Under Construction, 2006 (Credit Bull City Rising Blog)
Pavilion Under Construction, 2006 (Credit Bull City Rising Blog)

In classic DCP form, public input meetings and charrettes were held to gather feedback, insights and ideas from the community about building a home for the Market. Interest and support quickly coalesced around this idea. With the city and the community on board, the designs were made and the task of fundraising began. The City of Durham helped to secure almost $100,000 from a HUD Economic Development Grant and $49,000 from the Durham Open Spaces and Trails Commission. The rest of the money came directly from community members, local business sponsors, fundraising campaigns through the DCP and SEEDS Boards, and an incredible amount of guidance and support from Self-Help Credit Union. In 2006, the structure started going up!


The Market Moves to the Park

Then, on a very cold Saturday morning in April 2007, the Durham Farmers’ Market moved to their new home in Durham Central Park. Farmers drove in from the country with snow on their trucks. But, despite the unexpected cold snap, the mood was festive. There was a dedication ceremony with the city and county councils and everyone was excited for a new era of fresh, local food and community vitality in the Park!

(Photo Credit: Bill Pope)
(Photo Credit: Bill Pope)

The move into the the park was a big turning point for DFM. In 2007, the word of the year was “locavore” and the interest in eating local food grew around both the region and country. Having an established home, and no longer having the air of transience, became the key to the market’s success. Since they moved into the park, it has grown significantly. They have added more than 25 new vendors, expanded to a year round market, added Wednesday hours in 2008, and have made food access a priority through their SNAP and Double Bucks Programs. Every year, restaurants focusing on local and seasonal menus have popped up through Durham and chefs shopping at the Market are now a mainstay, with full bags and tubs of fresh, local food for their menus.

Progress in the Park

The market’s move to the park wasn’t just a turning point for the farmers, but also the Park. Durham Central Park was still in it’s early stages in 2007. The gardens were just being established and having DFM move in as the anchor tenant, gave the community a good reason to visit the Park every week and grow to love it. The turtle and cardinal moved in shortly after the farmers, the skatepark was built in 2010, our Food Truck Rodeos became an institution, Mt. Merrill opened in 2014, and downtown Durham has, for lack of a better word, boomed.

Since 2007, people have found hundreds of creative ways to use the space for weddings, fundraisers, dinners, concerts, exercise classes, rallies, and parties of all sorts. It has become the community gathering space that downtown had  needed. We, on the staff and the board of Durham Central Park, are constantly humbled by the way that the community has built the Park into what it has become today. The Park’s success really has been a direct result of the fact that the Durham Farmers’ Market has found its home in Durham Central Park. Here’s to many more years of working together!


What to Look Forward to This Season

The Durham Farmers’ Market has a lot planned for this season. Here’s a brief snap shot of what to expect in the next couple of months:welcomesign-wintermarket-1

  • Wednesday, April 5 – Kick off of the Wednesday Market! Buy one, get one on bee tote bags and we will have fabric painting supplies available for decorating the bags.
  • Wednesday, April 19 & Saturday, April 22 – Earth Day celebration 
  • Saturday, May 6 – Durham County Bee Keeper’s Association
  • Saturday, May 20 – Field day
  • Saturday, June 24 – Homefries Kid’s Cooking Class
  • Saturday, July 15 & Wednesday, July 19 – Tomato Day
  • Saturday, July 22 – Home Pickling Competition
  • Saturday, July 29 – Homefries Kid’s Cooking Class
  • Saturday, August 19 – Homefries Kid’s Cooking Class

A Birds Eye View of the Park

Last week, on a cold and dreary day, our Executive Director had the opportunity to take a tour of the new Liberty Warehouse Apartments. During the tour, she got to go up to one of the penthouse apartments and was wowed by the great views of the park. Even on that dreary day, the park emanates is subtle beauty and charm. Erin has worked in the park for over a decade (before working for DCP, she managed the Durham Farmers’ Market) but has never had the chance to see the park from this angle. Needless to say, she took lots of pictures and got a few great shots… Enjoy!

Mt. Merrill and the Leaf plus the cardinal and turtle!
The new sidewalk around the great lawn and the skate park!



The Great Lawn is starting to return to green
The Pavilion. Just imagine this would look like during a food truck rodeo, or a concert or the farmers’ market!
The Pavilion and our neighboring crane.
Another view of Mt. Merrill



Waste Reduction and GreenToGo!

In 2016, during our Food Truck Rodeos, we have successfully diverted more than 8000lbs of waste from the landfill by including composting and recycling options! But, it’s not a matter of providing additional cans…

  • Food trucks that come to our rodeos do not use Styrofoam for serving, which means that most of the serving items are either compostable or recyclable
  • Waste warrior volunteers staff the stations to help customers divide up their waste into the proper bins
  • Food Truck Rodeo customers are interested in reducing their waste while enjoying great food
  • We have developed relationships with like-minded organizations, like Keep Durham Beautiful, Food FWD, and Don’t Waste Durham who have helped to make this waste reduction project happen

greentogoKDB, Food FWD and Don’t Waste Durham work on waste reduction in many ways. But, right now, Don’t Waste Durham is working to revolutionize how Durham does take out by introducing a reusable take-out container called the GreenToGo Box! DWD is in the final stretch of a Kickstarter campaign to get the project off the ground. Please consider supporting our partners in continuing to reduce waste in our lovely city!

GreenToGo is a community-owned trash solution that lets people check in and check out boxes which are washed and sanitized in commercial dishwashers. This program is already succeeding in Portland and San Francisco – we want Durham to be the first city on the East Coast!

But this campaign is much bigger than just to-go boxes in Durham, NC. DWD is developing an effective reuse model for our community and for the OTHER communities where they can bring the program next – Raleigh, DC, NYC, London, Tokyo, Rio de Janeiro! DWD is on the front lines of planting the seeds of change in people’s hearts and minds to think reuse instead of single-use disposables. Reuse is the future! So if you support the idea of reuse – even in PRINCIPLE alone – please back Durham GreenToGo!

The Iron Furnace – Liberty Art Iron Pour at the Park


Durham Central Park and Liberty Arts Sculpture Studio & Foundry will have a public iron pour at Durham Central Park, Friday, November 18 from 5-9 p.m. After sunset, 1,500 pounds of molten, 2,500 degree iron will be poured into molds, in an exciting fiery display, including Liberty Arts artists’ work for sale, live buskers (street musicians), local food trucks Captain Cookie and The Milk Man – NC, Route Bistro LLC and Fullsteam Brewery beer. Durham resident fire spinners start at 7 p.m. November 18 is also Third Friday Durham, Durham’s monthly gallery crawl and studio tour evening.

The public has three opportunities to make their own mold and cast iron art at the Liberty Arts Foundry at Durham Central Park during three pre-pour workshops, which cost $30 each. You will be able to take home your iron sculpture that day after it cools off:

• Saturday November 12, 10 a.m.-12 p.m.
• Thursday November 17, 5:30-8:30 p.m.
• Friday, November 18, 2:30-7 p.m.
Register here

For information about the scratch block workshop, contact Liberty Arts at [email protected]

Admission to the iron pour is free. Blankets and folding chairs welcome. Fullsteam Brewery will serve from 5-9 p.m. and weather permitting, Third Friday Durham buskers (street musicians) will perform from 6-8 p.m.

Not sure what to expect at an Iron Pour? Check out this video of a pour that Liberty Arts did a few years ago.

Durham Central Park competes for $25K grant and needs your vote!


We need YOUR vote for $25K! Durham Central Park, Inc. is now in the running to bring a FREE 10 week live music series to Durham, June-August 2017.

Sponsored by the Mortimer & Mimi Levitt Foundation, a national foundation dedicated to strengthening the social fabric of America through free live music, Durham Central Park hopes to qualify as one of 15 winning organizations competing in the Levitt AMP Durham Grant Awards.

The awards are an exciting matching grant opportunity created by the Levitt Foundation to serve small to mid-sized towns and cities with populations up to 400,000. Up to fifteen nonprofits will receive $25,000 each in matching funds to produce their own Levitt AMP Music Series—an outdoor, free concert series featuring a diverse lineup of professional musicians.

Durham Central Park’s proposal is now posted on the Levitt AMP website for public voting: If successful, Durham Central Park will partner with Durham-based Art of Cool Project on three of the ten concerts. A successful campaign for Durham Central Park depends on community participation to get as many online votes as possible to bring the concert series to town. Community support, as measured by the number of online votes received, will be one of the key factors when the Levitt Foundation selects up to 15 winners.

Supporters are asked to visit to register and vote. Online public voting is now open and ends November 21 at 5:00 p.m. Pacific Time. The Top 25 finalists will be selected through online public voting. The Levitt Foundation will then review the proposals of these 25 finalists and will select up to 15 Levitt AMP winners, which will be announced on January 5, 2017.

Durham Central Park’s public surveys and charettes show people value Durham Central Park as a gathering place and want more FREE concerts at the Park. This is the way we can make it happen, with your help,” says Tess Mangum Ocaña, who co-wrote the grant with DCP Executive Director Erin Kauffman.

Durham Central Park asks supporters to start spreading the word to family, friends, colleagues and neighbors and rally the community to sign up and vote for Durham Central Park’s proposal. Voters must be 18 years of age or older and U.S. residents (or residents of U.S. territories.)


Durham Central Park is the five-acre downtown oasis on Foster Street. DCP is a city park, developed and maintained by Durham Central Park, Inc., a 501(c)(3) organization.

Goats at the Park!


Next Thursday, November 3rd, DCP will be the temporary residence of a crew of goats from The Goat Squad! These goats will be tasked with the job of cleaning up (eating) the kudzu that has grown over the small section of the Ellerbe Creek on the northern most end of the Park (at Roney and Corporation Streets, across from the ballpark lot). You may not even know that the creek is daylighted in that area! It’s kind of hard to see it because so much has grown over it in the past couple of year. But, these 4-legged critters will be hard at work eating as much kudzu and undergrowth as possible!

Then on Saturday, November 5th, from 9-Noon, we will have our monthly volunteer cleanup workday. During the workday, volunteers can go into the creek are and help the goats out by pulling the kudzu that they can’t reach off the trees. All are welcome to join. Plus you’ll get to pet the goats! The workday will start at the red table by the Grace Garden (at the bottom of the stairs on Roney Street).

Many thanks to the Rickhouse and Picklefest for helping to make this happen! The fine folks at the Rickhouse chose DCP to be the beneficiary of the funds raised during their Picklefest in July. They raised $2400 for the Park and with that donation, we are able to bring goats to do this work!!

The goats will be cleaning up this section of the creek for 4 days, from November 3-6. Stop by and check out their progress. It’s going to look much different once their work is done!


Construction Advisory

You may have noticed that the construction fence on the east side of the Park moved a little closer to the street yesterday. Here’s what’s happening….

The workers have pulled up a few pieces of the sidewalk to install a storm drain to assist with the drainage from the hillside. The new drain will help the section of the park between Mt. Merrill and the Liberty Arts Foundry from getting so muddy.

This project should take about one week from start to finish. The sidewalk will be re-installed and depending on the weather, should be re-open next week. Access to Mt. Merrill and the Liberty Arts Foundry will NOT be impacted during this project.

The new loop sidewalk construction on the hillside is progressing slower than expected. All of the rain has delayed the process. But, now that the sun is out, they are moving along. We’ll keep you posted!

The Skate Park repairs are all finished and it is open for skating once again! If you see someone from Parks and Rec, make sure to give them a high five for helping to make the repairs happen.

Thanks to all for your patience with this process!

Design Charrette this Saturday!

DCP’s current master plan which will be updated at the design charrette!

During the past few weeks, we’ve been seeking community input about the Park – how people use the Park, what they like, what needs improvement, etc – through our Community Input Survey in ENGLISH and SPANISH,  and community input meetings. Hundreds of people have shared their thoughts and we are so grateful!

Now it’s time for the Master Plan Design Charrette. A design charrette is where designers and community members get together and, using the community input from the survey results, draw and dream of what the Park will look like in the future. From there, a revised Master Plan will be created and the DCP board uses it as a guide for future updates and improvements. The Pavilion that houses the Durham Farmers’ Market and Mt. Merrill are both the direct results of community input to guide creation and revision of the Master Plan.

The Master Plan Design Charrette will be held on Saturday October 8th, 9 am-Noon at Measurement Incorporated, 423 Morris Street.

Also, you have probably noticed that the park’s big hillside and the skate park is currently closed. We are currently installing a Loop Sidewalk between the Leaf and the Skate Park, an element that has been on the Park’s Master Plan for a long time. Plus, much needed repairs are being done at the skate park. Right now, the whole hillside is torn up, but in a matter of weeks, an ADA-accessible loop shaped sidewalk will be installed around the great lawn. The lawn will be re-graded back into a hillside that won’t be nearly as muddy and difficult to traverse as it is now.
Please join us for the Charrette and help us shape the future of the Park!
NOTE: We are watching the weather closely. If Hurricane Matthew starts heading our way, we may postpone. CHECK OUR WEBSITE FOR DETAILS!

Construction Update


Photo by Stacey Poston


You may be wondering why the park’s hillside is under construction. A new loop sidewalk is being installed around the perimeter of the lawn!

This new sidewalk will be ADA accessible and it will create a much needed connection between Rigsbee Ave and Foster Street on the east side of the park.This loop  sidewalk has been part of the Park’s master plan for over 20 years. For a long time it was, what felt like, an unattainable dream because a sidewalk of that scope and design is a very expensive project. In 2014, East-West Partners, the developer of the Liberty Warehouse Apartments, approached the Park and proposed that they help build the sidewalk in the Park while their crews are assembled. Since then, Durham Central Park, Inc, the City of Durham, and East-West Partners has been working closely to finalize the details to make this new connection a reality!

img_8677This area was once the site of Mangum Warehouse No. 1& 2, tobacco auction warehouses. The warehouse was similar in size and scope to Liberty Warehouse (the current site of the Liberty Warehouse Apartments). Mangum Warehouse was demolished sometime in the 1980s, according to In the late 90s, the City of Durham acquired the land and it created the east side of Durham Central Park. Over the next 10 years, brush was cleared, the hillside was graded and it became an wide open green space that is now called the Great Lawn. In 2009, Parks and Rec built and opened the skate park on the south east corner of the lawn. Now, as the land for the sidewalk is being prepared, big chunks of the foundation of Mangum Warehouse are being unearthed, as you can see in the picture. That was expected and if you are watching it happen (like I am), it’s like an urban archaeological site!

In addition to the loop sidewalk, there will be a proper entrance to the park built near the intersection of Broadway and Rigsbee. This is another long planned addition that will welcome our neighbors from the east into the park. The sidewalk installation should take about 8 weeks and we are hoping to re-open the area in late fall. That, of course depends on the weather. After the sidewalk is constructed, the hillside will be regraded and seeded with grass so that it, once again, becomes an open green lawn for all to enjoy.

As we have gathered feedback from the community, we know that many people want to see more shade in the Park. So, we are working on that too! We have been working closely with the Durham’s forestry manager, Alex Johnson to identify hearty varieties of trees that will be planted along the perimeter of the new sidewalk to create groves of shade around the lawn. About 20 arge-ish trees will be planted in early winter!

We are also please to let you know that the skatepark is getting some much needed repairs! It should re-open by mid-October.

Check back soon for more details!