Save Money, Eat Well With Mobile Market

Spring harvest season means new fruits, vegetables arriving soon

Duke community members can pick up boxes of fresh produce each week at the Duke Mobile Farmers Market. Photo by Bryan Roth.

Mike Conti has found some big savings on grocery shopping by becoming a member of Duke's Mobile Farmers Market.

Since joining the market two years ago, he's received weekly boxes of certified organic produce, including asparagus and strawberries, from Bunn's Vollmer Farm. Conti estimates he saved about $400 last year during a 20-week session.

"I can definitely tell the difference in how fresh everything is compared to a grocery store," said Conti, manager for the Center for Molecular and Biomolecular Imaging. "My family is saving money because we're only making one trip to the mobile market, and we used to go two or three times a week to travel to our local grocery store where we'd probably spend about twice as much."

While the Mobile Farmers Market is a year-round program, many farmers are gearing up for their spring harvest, which means new, fresh produce arriving each week. Goods are picked up from 4 to 6 p.m. each Tuesday at the Sarah P. Duke Gardens.

Employees can sign up for the spring season of the market by registering directly with farmers and vendors and pre-purchasing shares of the harvest. Contact information for each farmer is on the mobile market website. Costs for fresh produce start at $12 per week. 

Last year, 710 Duke community members participated in the mobile market, organized by LIVE FOR LIFE, Duke's employee wellness program. Customers spent about $106,000 that went to support local farmers and agriculture. This year, the mobile market will also feature the Duke Campus Farm.

"Not only is the mobile market an affordable option to access healthy, local food, but it also makes it easy for students, faculty and staff to essentially have shopping done for them," said Lauren Updyke, health education manager with LIVE FOR LIFE. "Visitors to the market don't need to spend more than a few minutes to pick up their week's share of food."

That's what's so convenient for Erin Garris, who enjoys the ability to simply stop at the mobile market on her way home. Garris, a physician assistant in the Duke Division of Gastroenterology, first signed up for the market last fall after hearing positive reviews of the market from a coworker.

"My family is relatively picky, and we're trying to become healthier, so that meant getting a lot more fresh fruits and vegetables into our diet," Garris said. "Being a part of the market pushed us to eat more produce and now when I go to a grocery store, it's an easy choice to buy more fruits and vegetables because our habit is there to have them regularly."