Helping With A Healthy Diet All Year Long

Duke Mobile Farmers Market offers convenient campus produce pick-up

Farmers are currently offering a variety of fall fruits and vegetables like tomatoes, potatoes and more. Photo by Bryan Roth
Farmers are currently offering a variety of fall fruits and vegetables like tomatoes, potatoes and more. Photo by Bryan Roth

For the past three years, it's been easier than most for Ben Cooke to get all the fruits and vegetables of a recommended diet.

That's because every Tuesday he stops by the Duke Mobile Farmers Market at Sarah P. Duke Gardens and collects one or two boxes of fresh produce and goods like kale, peaches or Polish sausage delivered directly from a local farm. 

Along with about 600 other Duke faculty and staff this spring and summer, Cooke has taken part in Duke's mobile market, a form of community supported agriculture that features small farmers selling goods directly to customers. The market at the gardens is open year-round to sell to the Duke community.

"The number one reason I like to participate is it's very convenient because they come to Duke and it's right on my way home," said Cooke, assistant director of the Academic Resource Center. "My wife and I also feel great about our money going straight to the farmer instead buying produce that was shipped hundreds of miles to a supermarket."

Organized by LIVE FOR LIFE, Duke's employee wellness program, the mobile market hosts as many as nine vendors each week, selling fruits, vegetables, flowers and plants, seafood and pasture-raised, hormone-free meats. The market also features one vendor - Lee's Produce - that stops at Duke Raleigh Hospital on Fridays and Bella Bean Organics, which delivers boxes of produce directly to a customer's home or workplace.

Employees can sign up for the mobile market at any time by registering and pre-purchasing shares of a harvest directly with farmers and vendors through Duke's mobile market website. Costs for fresh produce start at $10 per week and goods are picked up from 4 to 6 p.m. each Tuesday at the gardens. Duke community members who don't sign up for the mobile market can stop by and purchase some produce, but aren't eligible to buy boxes of goods that are set aside for mobile market participants.

"We've worked hard to make the mobile market as easy as possible with farmers coming to campus or delivering their produce every week of the year," said Lauren Updyke, health education manager for LIVE FOR LIFE. "It's no secret how important it is to include fruits and vegetables in your diet, and this makes it really easy."

Among the employees stopping by the mobile market each week is Margaret Pendzich, who said she doesn't have time to spend at the weekly farmers market near her home in Carrboro. Instead, she prefers the ease of stopping by Duke's mobile market to save time and makie sure her family of four has all the vegetables they need for a week.

"It satisfies everyone in my family because I love getting peaches, one of my sons loves canary melons and the other can't get enough watermelon," said Pendzich, program manager with the Duke Global Health Institute. "I enjoy my visit with the farmers on a weekly basis, and I can pick up my stuff and be gone in just two minutes if I'm in a rush."