With more than a decade of experience under her belt, Joan Thompson has produced and sold just about everything short of fresh meat at farmers markets. She likes the markets so much she started her own: Joan is the president of the Siler City Farmers Market, a weekly market she and a handful of farmers commissioned six years ago this July.
Joan began selling produce from her garden at the Pittsboro Farmers Market in 1998. After retiring from her full-time job in July 2000, she took on a more active role as a market vendor. After selling garden vegetables she moved on to pickles and added baked goods shortly after. The rest is history: breads, cookies, cakes, and other sweets took over Joan’s table at the markets.
Today, Joan sells at several markets in Chatham County, but you’re guaranteed to see her at the Saturday Siler City Farmers Market. Her tables are lined with a rainbow of jams and all sorts of baked treats, including croutons she makes from the leftover breads. Her recipes don’t have secret ingredients because "they’re old school, just like something grandma would make."
Joan says her best customers are often people who are conscious of what they’re eating. Her recipes are wholesome and simple. A certain popular brand of seedless strawberry jam has six ingredients, half of which are sugar or corn-based sweeteners. Joan’s strawberry jam? Sugar, pectin, and plenty of locally grown strawberries.
Still, Joan faces challenges with the Siler City Farmers Market and selling her products. The Siler City market is currently in its third location after previous lots became unavailable. The number of vendors is small compared to other area markets, but the variety of goods remains consistent. In spite of the local food movement and growing popularity of farmers markets, the cost of wholesome ingredients can make the goods more expensive than grocery store prices. While the local food movement helps, it can also hurt. Joan says her biggest competition is that "half of the population of Siler City has their own garden."
Regardless of the hurdles, Joan and other farmers carry on with their weekly event in Siler City. The support and commitment from the community continues to grow. Like many vendors at the Farmers Market, Joan is always willing to lend advice to beginners; she is a great resource for information about kitchen equipment to invest in, inspections required, classes to take, and fees for joining the market. For Joan, her venture in the market is the result of a lifelong cooking hobby. She values the agricultural assets of Chatham County and enjoys the friendly communities and looks forward to the continued expansion of the Siler City Farmers Market.
Siler City Farmers Market
Saturdays, April – November
9:30 a.m. – 1:00 p.m.
118 W. Second Street (downhill from the gazebo)
Siler City, North Carolina
Tuesdays: Fearrington Farmers Market
Thursdays: Pittsboro Farmers Market
Saturdays: Siler City Farmers Market
For a detailed schedule of Chatham County farmers markets, check out our calendar. All of this season’s markets are in green.