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Healthy market for organic food

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People shop for local and fresh produce at a "winter market" held at the Tipsy Teapot Saturday. (Scott Davis/The Daily Reflector)

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K.J. Williams

Sunday, March 11, 2012

A Canadian transplant is learning to love collards, a Southern favorite, since she’s been exposed to the greens grown at Brothers Farms in La Grange.

Anoush Terjanian, who now lives in Greenville, regularly visits Spring Run Market to pick up a supply of produce that is grown without chemicals at the Lenoir County farm.

The produce is among an array of healthy fare available at the market, where vendors sell natural or organic foods, produce and other products on alternating Saturdays inside a downtown restaurant.

Spring Run Market got its start more than three years ago as an outlet to sell all-natural beef grown without antibiotics or hormones at Nooherooka Natural in Snow Hill.

The market was started by Winterville couple Chris and Devica Urwick, who later signed on regional farmers who grow crops without herbicides or pesticides. “Our definition of local is within a 100-150 mile radius,” she said.

The business has grown to include bread, chicken, coffee, eggs, crafts, lye soaps and seafood. The Urwicks also distribute items, including a line of flours, from To Your Health in Alabama and Farmstead Fresh cheeses from Pennsylvania.

While Spring Run isn’t exactly a roving market, it does move seasonally between two venues. In cold weather, it’s held inside the Tipsy Teapot in downtown Greenville. The next market, from 11 a.m. to 1 p.m. Saturday, has a St. Patrick’s Day theme. Beginning in April, it will relocate to its warm-weather locale, the parking lot adjacent to Staples in the Arlington Plaza shopping center. In late April, it will switch to a weekly schedule.

Terjanian said she’s a regular customer.

“I’m just happy to have food that I know isn’t putting toxins into our diet,” she said at the March 3 market. She belongs to a community-supported agricultural (CSA) program at Brothers Farms, where she prepays to receive a steady supply of produce per season.

Terjanian picks up her allotment at the Spring Market, along with other purchases.

The variety provided in her full brown-paper bag guarantees she’s tasting greens she’s never encountered before, like collards.

“I love them,” she said. “And also I just like to buy locally. My carbon footprint is a big deal to me — it’s fresh and it’s local.”

Warren Brothers, the fifth generation to work his family’s farm, said he stays busy growing produce organically year-round, using hoop houses and greenhouses in colder weather. A former tobacco farmer, he first branched out from tobacco 10 years ago into growing medicinal herbs, but after a Kinston restaurateur approached him about growing organic vegetables, he decided to give that a try as well. He is experimenting with using organic methods to grow blueberries and strawberries.

Brothers now supplies produce to four restaurants, in addition to his CSA customers.

“In Greenville, it’s really grown,” he said of CSAs. “And we have some people that just come out to the farm to get what they want.”

Key vendors

Devica Urwick, 47, a registered nurse who no longer works in the medical field, said she and her husband, Chris, 51, a general contractor, wanted to fill a nutritional void by starting Spring Run Market to make organic and all-natural food more available from regional sources.

“For me, it was just to help people eat better. That is really my passion, to help people eat better and become healthier,” she said.

Vendors share a small percentage of their profits with the Urwicks, which is invested back into the market. The Urwicks visit any farms that want to participate to ensure that no chemicals are used, although the organic certification, which can be expensive and time consuming, is not required.

Operating on a handshake, the vendors agree to follow a set of guidelines. More of them are involved in the spring and summer growing seasons, including Jones Farm in Snow Hill, another produce provider. The market’s website at springrunmarket.com is updated the Tuesday before market days to reflect which vendors will be on hand.

“Who’s going to be there fluctuates, too,” Devica Urwick said. “That’s just the nature of buying local.”

Vendors include a core group of 10 farmers and food suppliers, a handful of suppliers the Urwicks sell for and seven regular craft vendors, along with the nonprofit, Eastern North Carolina Stop Human Trafficking Now, which sells items as a fundraiser.

At the market, Gray Powell, owner of Gray’s Garden in Farmville, was debuting microgreens, which he described as a “different type of mustard plant cut when the first true leaves appear.”

“You consume the whole plant,” he said, adding that it’s more nutritious, and can be eaten with a variety of foods.

Steady customers

Visitors to the market included regulars and first-time visitors.

Susan McKnight of Greenville shops there often because she says the food is healthier and she wants to support local farmers. While some items may cost more, she said the “higher quality” is worth it, and other items are comparable in cost to the grocery store.

Erin Reece of Pitt County said she and her family are pursuing a healthier lifestyle, and the market fits in with that plan.

“This is my first time, but I plan on coming regularly now because we’re starting to eat more raw foods and fresh, locally grown foods,” she said.

It’s been just two months, but Matthew Aidevis of Pitt County already sells enough of his home-baked loaves there to finance his baking habit.

A heating and air conditioning supervisor by profession, he typically sells out of the Six-Eleven Bakery goods he bakes as a hobby.

“People have received it real well,” he said. “I try to use as much organic things as possible, but some of the cost is a little prohibitive, so I try to do a balance.”

His list of simple ingredients includes organic flour, herbs from his garden, kosher salt and olive oil.

His wife, Brittany, makes lye soap using organic oils.

“We just feel like we’re trying to bring it back to the basic staples,” Aidevis said.

Ben Clarke of Washington, N.C., said he is willing to travel to Greenville to buy “local, organic produce” and “good homemade bread.”

Kristen Mollison of Greenville came to the market to pick up her first order of beef from Nooherooka Natural’s CSA program.

“We’re very excited to try it,” she said. “And you can buy locally. That’s even better. To be able to support local businesses is a great thing, especially with this economy.”

Mary Betty Kearney, co-owner of the Black Angus beef business with husband Ossie, said, “The CSA has done well. We’re pretty steady.”

Their company was the impetus for the first markets. Kearney said they also supply restaurants statewide with beef from their free-range cattle that eat only what’s been raised by the Kearneys. The pigs also adhere to this diet.

Chris Urwick said he and his wife get plenty of assistance with the market from their children, son Adam, 17, and daughter Aubrey, 24.

Devica Urwick said following a healthy diet like the market promotes has helped her deal with health problems related to heavy metal toxicity.

“How much more direct can you get than what you put in your mouth and swallow?” she asked. “I’m still dealing with it. (But) I’m much, much better.”

Eventually, she said they’d like to open a store or cafe, and she’s hoping to do more educational programs by partnering with businesses and local organizations.

“I want Spring Run to be a springboard for that,” she said. “There are so many things that are easily fixed through diet or by paying attention to what your body actually needs.

“People are becoming more aware that we need to treat our bodies holistically, naturally,” she said.

David Zabawski of Greenville, who has a CSA with Brothers Farms, also is a convert to consuming fresh, local produce. “It’s organic, we try to keep healthy and this helps,” he said.

Contact K.J. Williams at kwilliams@reflector.com or 252-329-9588.

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