by David Cecelski
I visited the Rocky Mount Farmers Market while I was in Nash County this morning. I purchased some fine-looking okra, muscadine grapes, and butterbeans—probably the season’s last of all three—from a farm couple from Nashville. I also got a couple of fantastic sweet potato jacks (a fried sweet potato pie) from a baker named Carla Brogden, who, besides making cakes and pies, will help you throw a tea party if you’re looking for a nice way to celebrate a young daughter’s birthday. Or, I’m thinking, if you’re seeking a little respite from worrying about the collapse of the world economy. I could use a tea party myself right about now.
The farmers market also had a goat meat vendor, a purveyor of stone-ground grits, and some lovely cut flowers from Jennifer Edward’s farm in Castalia, as well as much more.
My favorite booth was Rena Hiatt’s. She grows herbs in her backyard in Rocky Mount and sells dried herbs and herb vinegars, as well as, this time of year, chestnuts. I bought several ½ cup bags of dried herbs, only $1.00 each—spearmint and peppermint to make tea for winter colds, rosemary, sage, and thyme for making vegetable soup. I also purchased a bag of chestnuts to roast when it gets a little colder.
The Rocky Mount Farmers Market is located at 1016 Peachtree Street in the city’s Historic Mill District. The market is definitely worth a visit if you live nearby or if you’re passing through town on Highway 64. It’s open Saturday mornings 8 AM to 1 PM from April to November, and also Fridays 3 PM to 6 PM from June to August.
If you go, be sure to look around the neighborhood a little bit. The falls of the Tar River are just a few hundred yards from the market. There’s a nice boardwalk that runs along the river’s banks and up into Battle Park. Along the river, you’ll also see the Rocky Mount Mills, now closed, but once the state’s second oldest cotton mill. (See photo.) Founded in 1818 and originally called Battle Mills, after the owner’s family, the mill attracted one of the world’s longest railroads at the time (the Wilmington and Weldon) and helped to make Nash and Edgecombe Counties the state’s largest cotton producing region before the Civil War.
Destroyed by Union troops during the war, the mill was re-built and remained the center of a mill village in the heart of Rocky Mount until closing in 1996. The former site of the mill village school is a stone’s throw from the farmers market, between Peachtree and Falls Street.You can see the old mill village housing all around the farmers market, too.
photos by David Cecelski