Over 50 years ago, farmers just north of the Outer Banks in Currituck County had a light bulb moment. Although the Outer Banks was still a bit of a backwater, it was clear to them that the economic engine was shifting south, and as people drove there, they would need fresh produce; tomatoes, cucumbers, strawberries, blueberries and anything else they could grow. At that time, most every farming family along Caratoke Highway had their own produce stand, although most of the smaller ones have not survived. However, several of these direct descendants are still around and have grown larger and are very professionally run.
There’s Morris Farm Market, Rose Produce, Grandy Greenhouse and Tar Heel, just across from the Cotton Gin. They don’t always carry local produce–not many bananas and pineapples are grown around here–but when they can, they do . . . and some of them–Grandy Greenhouse and Morris Farm Market–grow their own.
Not all of the produce stands are along the highway to the beach. Most of them, in fact, are located on the Outer Banks–so many that it would be tough to list all of them. A couple of key ones that have been around for a while though have built up a very loyal following, and for good reason.
Probably the best known is Tar Heel II. Located in the Seagate North Shopping Center in Kill Devil Hills, it’s that sort of shack-like stand on the south end of the parking lot. Ed’s brother-in-law, Joe, runs the Tar Heel stand in Jarvisburg, and they tend to have the best prices around. When they can, they do bring in local produce.
For guaranteed local produce, go to Duck. The Newbern family has been operating Dockside in Duck since 1987 and pretty much for that entire time they’ve been running their Green Acres Farm Market. The Newberns have been farming in Currituck County since . . . well, for a long time. And when their tomatoes come in, and their cantaloupes ripen, that’s what stocks the stand. The seafood is usually caught by one of the Newberns, too. Up north in Corolla, there’s Seaside Market, which always does a good job. I don’t know where they get their peaches, but they always have the best around.
All the way on the other end of the northern Outer Banks, down in Manteo, you’ll find Island Produce and they always have a good selection. Same as many of the other produce stands, when they can find it, they stock their shelves with local produce. To really get the true taste of local, check out the Manteo Farmer’s Market every Saturday. The rules are simple: home grown, home-baked, or home made. They’re open from eight in the morning until noon and you’ll find them at the George Washington Creef Park, next to the Maritime Museum.
One more place that gets an honorable mention. For the past two years, Anna Taylor ran Nags Head Produce, right next to Austin Fish Market. Anna created the market specifically to bring in produce from area farmers. There’s a new owner, I’m not even sure if he’s keeping the name, but he assured me he will be bringing in local when available.
Lots of small ad hoc markets show up as well. If a farmer has a bumper crop of watermelon, he loads it in his pickup truck, and sells what he can. There’s only one guarantee there, it’s fresh!