Charlotte Farmers Market

There are a number of private farmers markets all around Charlotte, but the Charlotte Regional Farmers Market off Yorkmont Road (near the Charlotte Douglas International Airport) is pretty centrally located no mater where you live in the area. This particular market is run by the NC Agricultural Department and is one of the largest ones in town.

Though farmers markets are well known for the organic quality, freshness and variety not offered by most supermarkets--most people seem to think that they are also expensive. This is absolutely not the case at the Charlotte Market. Last week I purchased a red pepper for just 99 cents, and huge bag of mushrooms for $1 and Chinese eggplant for just $1.50. This is way cheaper than any other market in the area, and way beneath the prices at the supermarket. There's also unusual variety of stuff that you won't find at your corner Food Lion.

Now, not everything at this market is locally grown. You will undoubtedly spot vendors selling fruits and veggies straight out of boxes that clearly show the product was not grown by them, but was purchased. For example, a vendor selling oranges will clearly not have gotten them from the Carolinas--but straight from Florida. Or apples may be boxed from New York. I'm perfectly okay with this arrangement since I'm getting it for a super reasonable price. But much of what is for sale is still locally grown by the sellers themselves.

This farmers market is huge (during seasonal months) and operates year round (and not just on the weekends). Much of it is also indoors and under roofed buildings, so its a tad more pleasant to escape the hot summer sun. In the winter there may not be as many vendors as during the warmer months, but the few that are there are still selling everything and anything you would need. In the spring and summer, many vendors sell local fresh cut flowers of amazing variety and for excellent prices. But be warned, if you are allergy prone--you will be overwhelmed by the odor and pollen count in these stalls so keep away from them.

Once spring hits, the number of vendors and variety of what they sell increases dramatically. You will spot local cheesemakers, folks selling unusual cuts of beef such as ostrich and occasionally someone selling gorgeous fish out of the back of his truck. Local honey is relatively inexpensive, as are interesting homemade natural soaps and organic baked goods. There are also vendors selling crafts and other decorative items, too. In the summer months, food vendors join the bandwagon on the weekends, so you can have a hotdog while perusing the stands of goods.

Though it might not have the charm of your small, neighborhood farmers market if you are so lucky to have one--I would bet you will find that this one is cheaper than most and perhaps a tad more convenient. It also makes for a interesting weekend jaunt with the family.

The Charlotte Regional Farmers Market is located at 1801 Yorkmont Road and is easily accessible from South Tryon Street, Tyvola Road, I-77, and I-85. For more information call (704) 357-1269.


Living In: Waxhaw, North Carolina

Waxhaw is a small, cute town in western Union county which has been in a bit of a boom in the last few years. It has a high concentration of transplants who are attracted to it's quirky Main Street area, and interesting selection of homes in all price points and good schools. Once a farming town, there are still plenty of remnants of horses and cows in fields right next to new shopping centers that are popping up.

The Cureton subdivision is pretty much the anchor neighborhood in town, as it is the largest. Pricepoints vary widely here, from a $140,000 townhouse all the way into the $600k range at this writing. The neighborhood also boasts a small shopping center on Providence Road (currently being widened to 4 lanes) with a Harris Teeter, CVS, good Chinese restaurant and more. Immediately around this opened up a Lowe's home improvement store, and there's room for more shops which will inevitably come. So, there is definitely a convenience factor growing in Waxhaw. A Wal-Mart attempted to move into town a few years ago, but a lengthy legal battle ensued by the residents that claimed it would kill the small town feeling and decimate the local shops. Needless to say, they won and Wal-Mart was sent packing.

Main Street is having it's up and downs at the moment thanks to the economy. Located right on the train tracks, the town attempts to control the types of shops that open there so that it maintains its days of yore feeling. There are several interesting antique shops, a barber shop with the familiar candy stripe pole outside, and several decent restaurants. A simple wooden bridge originally constructed in 1888 enables pedestrians to cross the train tracks which is a favorite with the locals was recently renovated. It's a great spot to watch the freight trains whiz by right under you. It's pretty much a ghost town during the week, and gets visitors mostly on weekends.

Mama Lena's Italian restaurant is a favorite that has been around for some time, and the owners are native New Yorkers. It's housed in an old building with wonderful architecture and they are known for making their own bread. Everything is fresh and takes some time, so be ready to hang out a while. Rippington's offers typical American fare across the street that is a bit pricey, and it's somehow trying to be something fancier than it should be given it's location. The Bridge & Rail is well-known for it's brunch, but isn't open for dinner. Just off Main Street, Crossroads Coffee House is a super popular hangout and is situated in an old wooden home with a wooden screen door. A continual rotation of musicians keeps the place lively.

One word of caution: don't look for a martini with your meal. Waxhaw's restaurants can only offer wine as a beverage, since the town is essentially dry. There are no bars or spots to hang out with an alcoholic brew. Many non-bible belting transplants consider this a transgretion of the highest order, and they are working hard to sign petitions to get alcohol allowed in the local establishments. Heck, even the restaurants themselves want the resolution approved as it will improve their bottom line. The feeling by many is that no further profusion of eateries will come to Waxhaw without their ability to offer a drink. The usual battle is ensuing where one side wants the ability to drink so that locals don't have to trek just a few miles down the road to Charlotte for a beverage (and deposit their tax dollars into another county); while the other side fears DWI's and a profusion of crime would result should an adult imbibe in a vodka and cranberry.

In May there is an annual Spring Fest with local vendors selling all types of typical fair goods and craft art; and July 4th and Christmas parades gives local kids a chance to have a blast. I give Waxhaw's town leaders credit for continually putting on interesting little events each month to draw attention to Main Street and giving it a boost. A small children's park is hidden behind the shrubbery off Main (or around the corner from the Tack Exchange shop, where there is more parking) that also has an unexpected, but very cool skateboarding area for those interested in hitting pipes and bowls.

Artists abound in Waxhaw, and Eight Legs Gallery and Stewart's Village Gallery are two places that are a must see for interesting art gifts of pottery or metalwork. Rebecca's Pottery, is located in Eight Legs and let's you bring out your inner potter by offering you a chance to make your own stuff. As an aside, Stewart's is now partnering with the Waxhaws Farmer's Market to use his grounds (they were formally on Providence Road) for their stands. So look for them there.

From a real estate perspective, you can buy a modern brick contemporary on a huge property for well into the millions of dollars, a classic southern farmhouse with a front porch and shutters (check these out just down the road on Main Street) or a shack for $90k. Watch out for the property taxes here, as they are one of the highest in Union County--though transplants will laugh at how cheap they are in comparison from where they came ($10,000 prop taxes in New Jersey anyone??). You can be way out in the sticks and far from any supermarket, or you can be right around the corner from one. You can live on many acres or a manageble back yard. The great thing about Waxhaw is that it does offer you options. Typical shopping for clothing and such is going to mean a trek to the Charlotte city limits, but that's only a 15 minute drive (depending on where you live) to the Ballantyne area or South Charlotte. All the usual suspects like Target and everything else is just a drive away.

All in all, Waxhaw is trying to hold onto its days-gone-by appeal in a county that is one of the fastest growing in the US. Not an easy feat. Now, if we could just have a drink!