Although it might not seem like it, not everyone can make it to the Durham Farmers' Market. Work schedules, kids' soccer games and the claustrophobia of standing cheek by jowl before a table of sweet corn can deter some people from the weekly Saturday morning ritual.
So Guenevere Abernathy launched LoMo, a mobile farmers market, in May. Her trailer frequents neighborhoods and parking lots around the Triangle peddling fresh produce—including green peppers, tomatoes and freshly picked blackberries—and even meat, such as sausage from Farmhand Foods and recently caught-and-frozen vermillion snapper from the Carolina coast.
"The concept is we're in people's transit paths," Abernathy said. "We're not a significant errand that you have to run."
Some customers encounter LoMo by chance, but in many cases entire neighborhoods spread the word via listservs that the LoMo truck is coming, and the lines form.
The LoMo shopping experience proves to be more efficient than the rambling nature of a farmers market. For one, the trailer has air conditioning. There is a one-way path that runs the length of the trailer, with shelves and compartments to hold shopping baskets.
Every item has a sticker listing the price, who produced it and where it was grown. The $10 package of bacon comes from Coon Rock Farm in Hillsborough. A jar of muscadine jelly from Benjamin Vineyards sells for $5.50. The feta crumbles in the refrigerator case are from Prodigal Farm in Rougemont. The selection of ground wheat, grits and corn bread mix originate in Faucette Farms in Brown Summit, N.C., with prices ranging from $2.25 to $4.50 for the 1- or 2-pound bags. She said she wants to keep her prices competitive with those at the farmers market.
LoMo features a few prepared food items, such as the savory cherry tomato crostata from Scratch bakery and the veggie dumplings from Sarah Cecilia. One might even buy a mixed bouquet from Bluebird Meadows.
Wendy Sotolongo recently stopped by LoMo, where it was parked in the Woodcroft neighborhood, after work.
"I bought green beans for that night's side dish, peaches to slice for the next morning and fresh mozzarella to make a fabulous sandwich for lunch the next day," she recalled. "The only thing that might be better than the variety and quality of the produce is the absolutely wonderful people who staff the truck."
Abernathy was inspired to start a mobile farmers market after Walking Fish, the community-supported aquaculture program that brings fresh seafood to the Triangle, contacted her and her husband to help consult on some of its start-up kinks a few years back.
That discussion sparked her imagination. "How can we make it really easy for both producer and consumer to find each other?" Abernathy asked.
For small farmer Judy Thomson, LoMo has allowed her to reach a wider market. She now has a spot at the South Durham Farmers' Market, but before that she sold her goods from a farmstand at the end of her driveway in south Durham.
"LoMo has been great to work with for me as a smaller producer. Sometimes it's hard to get produce into markets because the buyers only want to work with the larger producers," Thomson said. "Not LoMo. They have always been very accommodating to me, and happy to receive my smaller amounts. One time I brought in less than 10 pounds of okra that I had just picked. They loaded it right on the truck that was getting ready to leave for a neighborhood."
Farmers typically drop off their produce and meat at the LoMo truck, while shipping nonperishable goods. Abernathy travels the state to find new products.
She already has ordered two trucks that should be operational by September. Abernathy hopes to expand to a total of five trucks that would tour the Triangle.
"This new business has been incredibly rewarding, allowing me to build off of my passion in both conservation and local foods," said Abernathy, who sold a real estate company with a focus on land conservation to start LoMo.
"I have really enjoyed building deeper relationships with all the great local farmers and food producers in this region."
This article appeared in print with the headline "Food in your 'hood."