What a treat I had yesterday. Sarah of the Carrboro Farmers Market has been patiently squiring me around the area, meeting to meeting, meal to meal. Hopefully, all of you have made it to this area of North Carolina and had some of their amazing food, centered by the pork, chicken -well, all meat- that they love and know how to cook in so many interesting ways.
Yesterday, Sarah took me a few miles out of Carrboro to a little town called Saxapahaw (pronounced sax-paw the Carrboro native says) for lunch and for a quick meeting. That meeting easily became an afternoon, because of the fascinating Saxapahaw General Store.
Here is what their website says about their beginnings:
The Saxapahaw General Store as it now exists began in June 2008 when Jeff Barney, butcher and self-taught cook, and Cameron Ratliff, teacher and self-taught biscuit maker, worked with former owner Mac Jordan to begin a new life for the convenience store and gas station that had served the community for several years. They imagined a spot where a village could gather for refreshments, meals, and basic home provisions, run by folks whose varied backgrounds have each taught them they can influence their world by collaborating with their neighbors. They hoped to serve the residents of Saxapahaw with a range of products that could allow everyone to feel welcome. They decided to become stewards of local foods, good wine and beer, nutritious snacks, and eco-conscious dry goods.
What I saw was a business model that looked right. Once I met the dynamo farmer Suzanne, I became even more sure. Suzanne took us across the street to the pastures after our lunch
(the picture below shows what is available for lunch-all of the meat is local and much of the produce too)
The turkeys were the last of the year, with these destined for ground turkey in the next week or so.
Much of the poultry production is done herself alongside Saxapahaw neighbors and coworkers; the humane treatment of her animals at the end of their lives is so important to this farmer that she told us she would not use many of the processing plants available to her. And that if that was the only way that they could be processed that she wouldn’t raise animals for food.
She pointed out the ducks that they had only begun to raise for food and the vegetable garden, also beginning. At this point, the store is buying from the very talented growers that surround the area thanks to the Carrboro Farmers Market and its younger sister markets, but the emporia is going to grow some of its own produce across the street. The composting is carefully monitored before being shared with their animals, so as to not waste any of the precious produce.
The store is set up to roam and shop after one has put their order in at the counter. Coca-cola products are lined up near pure ginger root drinks, homemade baked goods and local preserves near the small candy area. Hunting gear and motor oil can also be picked up as well along with some biodiesel or gas for your truck.
The store is both a throwback and a nod to the future. Suzanne talked extensively about the ongoing need for more equipment as well as sharing individual stories of the staff and their talents. Throughout our time there, people of varying ages and backgrounds came and went, bought food, drink and dry goods.
As public health and regional planners look for store models that can offer dignity and inclusion to food producers as an encouragement to sell there (just as the farmers market world has done) this store should become a Mecca. Using around 1500 square feet to offer as many culturally appropriate items as possible (Suzanne dreams of the day she can put out her gizzards and turkey necks next to the stock already offered) and real food choices next to convenience items still necessary to the real world, the Saxapahaw General Store is a food organizer’s dream come true.
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