"I started drinking wheat beers a few years ago," said Erin Nellen Jobe, the 26-year-old market manager for the Carrboro Farmers' Market. "But I don't have a favorite style. Just like I don't have a favorite style of music. It all depends on the mood and where I am and what I am doing."
Sitting at Steel String Brewery in Carrboro, we settled in with a couple of pints as she began to discuss the trajectory of how this country girl came to the Paris of the Piedmont.
A native of Kentucky, Jobe arrived in North Carolina four years ago after riding out a tennis scholarship at the University of Wisconsin. There, she studied community and environmental sociology in the department of agriculture, which turned out to be a perfect fit for her current situation.
The last two and a half years she has lived in Carrboro. "It's funky," she said in an almost questioning manner. She looked away, took a sip of her Little Sadie saison and continued, "It's a funky, small town with lots of energy." Her eyes grew big, her words a little more pronounced: "There's a lot of personality in such a small space."
Her choice of beer and description of the town are almost ironic. Saisons, also known as farmhouse ales, are derived from the French-speaking region of Belgium and are often described as earthy; Belgian yeast often imparts a funkiness to the flavor profile of the beer. Saison is a beer that was made to be consumed by farmhands.
My choice was the Hops of Stone Orange IPA, brewed in conjunction with Americana band Mandolin Orange to commemorate the release of their newest record, This Side of Jordan, on Yep Roc Records. Affectionately referred to as Mandolin Orange IPA, it is made with Simcoe and Centennial hops and dried orange peel, and is yet another fine example of what Jobe sees as Carrboro's appeal: businesses working together for a common goal.
Both band and beer draw on older styles while injecting a fresh perspective to their product. India pale ale was born out of necessity in England when brewers needed to adapt their pale ales to survive the long trip to India to satiate the British troops. Old-time music, traditionally learned by ear, was music for the common man. Brewers have since breathed new life into IPA, supersizing it to double IPA status or brewing it with only a single hop. Musicians have co-opted the sounds of old-time music and its stringed instruments into an amalgamation of country, bluegrass and rock'n'roll—now termed Americana. We are talking about osmosis and adaptation.
"It's the people," Jobe said. "That's what I enjoy most about my job." The mix of entrepreneurs, small-business owners and an array of farmers—from the family-owned and organic to young, artisanal start-ups—makes her position more of a vocation than occupation. "I like that I get to work with the community, not just with it but within it," said Jobe. "All of the people tend to be very passionate, smart and talented."
Motivation breeds motivation, as they say, and Jobe harnesses Carrboro's inspirational ethic, channeling it into her own passion. "Keeping structure and knowing what the next best move is, is my biggest challenge," she explained. Jobe has to balance a wide array of stockholders, vendors and, well, she said with a shrug, "opinions."
The farmers market varies with its seasonal selections. In the coming weeks you can expect to see lots of green stuff (lettuce, kale, chard, spinach and broccoli), radishes, turnips, cauliflower, sweet potatoes, winter squash and pumpkins.
However, the two consistent favorites are tomatoes and strawberries. There are more than 70 varieties of tomatoes, with some specializing in heirlooms and some developing new varietals. The market's tomato tasting is by far its biggest event, Jobe says.
Strawberries are the other big seller (although she confessed their variety doesn't quite match that of the tomato). "Weather controls the flavor," she says.
I have just learned something new today.
This article appeared in print with the headline "Down to earth."