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Arts & Culture

Farmers' Market On Wheels

Leoneda Inge

Durham has a pretty tasty reputation when it comes to food.  Nationally ranked restaurants and a burgeoning food truck scene keeps food-types buzzing.  But moving in between the ice cream and burger trucks is a fresh food truck called LoMo Market.  The idea is to bring fresh food to busy residents who can afford it but may not have time to get to the store.  Leoneda Inge has the first report for our series, “Breaking into the Food Biz.”

Leoneda Inge:  Guenevere Abernathy is not a gourmet chef looking to have a restaurant some day.  Last year she sold her land conservation real estate business. The heart of her new venture is a brand new trailer and a big white Ford F-250 to pull it around Durham.  Her new baby, LOMO Market, which stands for Local Mobile Market.

Guenevere Abernathy:  Really, it’s about what’s in season.  So we’re working with farmers to bring us what’s fresh right out of the ground.

Abernathy and her team start packing their local market hours in advance.   The shiny white trailer with its original red and grey logo on the side is like a small traveling food co-op. Abernathy says she hasn’t met anyone who doesn’t like fresh food from the farmer’s market but many can’t get there.

Guenevere Abernathy:  A lot of people want to get to the farmer’s market but they have so many other responsibilities, there’s kids with soccer practice, other errands, and home projects, things like that, working on Saturdays.

That’s where her LOMO Market steps in to try and fill a void.

Guenevere Abernathy:  Can we take local food to people, where they already are, meet them at their workplace when they’re leaving work, be in their neighborhood when they’re walking the dogs churches, as people are leaving church.   So, not make it another errand, but something that’s already in their paths of movement.

Abernathy says the LOMO Market model provides sales, marketing and distribution expertise to small farmers, bakers, and fishermen so they can focus on what they do best.  The model seems to be off to a good start. LOMO Market has been up and running for about a month and they have neighborhood stops six days a week.  The Wednesday night stop is in the Woodcroft neighborhood.  On this evening the LOMO trailer is parked at Highgate Drive and Running Brook Court. Residents started lining up before the LOMO crew could set up.  Christy Brooks was one of the first shoppers inside.  This is her first time in the LOMO Market.

Christy Brooks:  This is fabulous, I love the fact that the fresh foods and the organic and the local stuff is coming to us, we walked here, well Max took his scooter, but we walked here, I think it’s just great not to have to wait until Saturday and have to drive some place.

Some of the shoppers were willing to put their money where their local food mouth is.  When LOMO Market started a marketing campaign online to help determine where the business’s first stops would be Laura Webb joined in to lobby for Woodcroft

Leoneda Inge:  How much did you put in?

Laura Webb:  I put 100-dollars in.

Leoneda Inge:  WOW!

Laura Webb:  I like local food, it was worth it to me.

Leoneda Inge:  So, how much did you use today on your account?

Laura Webb:  I think I used 12-dollars today.

Webb doesn’t have to bring cash to the LOMO trailer – she has a line of credit. John Spencer is the Director of Market Operations for LOMO Market.  Spencer believes in this venture so much, he quit his job as Registrar at Duke Law School to jump on board.  Spencer does a little bit of everything  he drives the truck that hauls the trailer.  And he takes turns working the computer tablets-turned-cash register as customers pay for their food.

John Spencer:  Hi, how are you all?  Come on through.  Yeah this particular stop has been really interesting, because we get a nice mix of younger people and older folks coming through.  And I love to see what people buy.  Anytime someone buys something like a rutabaga I’m like, what do you do with that!

Bonnie Whitmore shopped in the truck for dinner.

Bonnie Whitmore:  I bought some kale, and I bought some spicy Italian sausage, which I like hot and spicy stuff.  And also I bought this hot sauce to try it.

Leoneda Inge:  Vegetarian, fat free hot sauce!

Bonnie Whitmore:  I know when I saw that I said, ha, ha, how can it be, I’m going to try it anyway.

Abernathy says her goal is to have as many as five LOMO Markets traveling the neighborhoods of Durham by the end of the year. 

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