Just a twenty minute walk away from East Campus on Saturday mornings is one of Durham’s hidden gems: The Durham Farmers’ Market. A curated group of local, small businesses and vendors come out once a week to showcase their exquisite seasonal produce, baked goods, homemade cheeses, fine chocolate, and even handmade jewelry. Durhamites flock downtown with their families and friends to stroll through the market, eager to both explore artisanal goods and support local vendors. Committed to bringing the entire community together, the Durham Farmers’ Market encourages those using food stamps to visit the market through their Double Bucks program, which matches up to $10 spent. The inclusivity, consistency, and locality of the market keep customers coming back all year round. Traveling down to the market to meet some of the vendors in person, we uncovered the unique stories behind their business ventures and journeys.
Elodie Farms is a goat dairy farm located in the beautiful Piedmont region of North Carolina, just twenty five minutes north of Durham. One of the Market’s staple vendors, Elodie Farms’ sets up their booth year round every Saturday with fresh new cheeses for customers to choose from. We spoke with Ted Domville, who shares the farm with his wife Sandra Vergara, to learn a bit more about how Elodie Farms got started.
Sophia: What made you decide to sell your ownership of Local Yogurt and switch to selling goat’s cheese?
Ted: I sold my ownership in Local Yogurt when my wife Sandra graduated with her PhD from Duke and chose UMass for her post-doc. We moved up to Massachusetts an opened a gourmet ice cream store. When I was a chef in Durham, I bought a lot of cheese from Elodie and was the guest chef at three of their dinners here. So when Sandra's research brought her back down to the area, the farm had just gone for sale and we took it over.
S: What makes goat’s cheese special—how is it different from normal cheese?
T: To begin with, a goat is a much more efficient milk producer than a cow, pound for pound. They take up a lot less space and consume fewer resources. Their milk is lower is lactose, so many people that have trouble digesting cow's milk may be able to digest goat milk. On top of that, if you let cow milk sit it will naturally settle out and the cream will rise to the top. That's because the fat particles in cow's milk are much larger, so it will separate over time. But large fat particles are hard for people to digest, so cow's milk gets stirred to break up the fat into smaller particles that stay suspended. That process is called homogenization; that's what homogenized milk is. But goat milk is naturally homogenized, so it does not separate out into cream. For this reason, goat milk is smooth and silky, and I find it has a touch of natural sweetness to it.
S: How has your approach to making goat’s cheese evolved over time?
T: What makes us a little different is that our animals are the core of our business. We're farmsteaders (meaning the milk we use comes from a herd here on the farm) but homesteaders, too—this farm is also our home. The goats are our pets. Many cheese makers put up with the hassle of raising animals and maintaining a herd so they can make and sell cheese. For us, it's the opposite: we make and sell cheese so we can afford these wonderful goats! They all have names and get a lot of attention—we try to spoil them! We hope that the happiness and healthiness of our goats comes through in our cheeses.
S: What are the inspirations behind your choices of cheese flavors?
T: Our cheese flavors are inspired by things we've tasted and seen over the years. Even so, we like to keep our flavor list simple. As we are a small dairy, we decided to pick a few things and try to do them very well.
S: What is the philosophy behind Elodie Farms’ monthly farm dinners?
T: The philosophy behind the dinners is to showcase what all the small producers in our area do so well throughout the year. Typically a chef comes up with a menu and then works to source all the ingredients. What we do is reach out to our dozen or so farmers and tell them when our next dinner is, and ask what they would have available. Once we have those lists, we build our menu that way. But the dinners always start off with a full farm tour so guests can see and understand the process, and of course meet the goats. From there we try to give them a relaxing, magical night: the farm itself and the goats do most of that work!
S: How has becoming “goat parents” changed your life? What have you learned through your relationship with the animals?
T: That's a big question! The goats are the center of everything we do, plan, and think about. They've taught us more than I can list and continue to do so everyday. Our goats are intelligent, very friendly, and respond well to affection, so they are cuddly and like to be around nice people. We invite everyone out to the farm to meet them for themselves!
S: What do you hope customers take away from your products?
T: Someone told us once that what we were really selling was our story, and we do agree! We hope people realize who the goats are and how they are treated, and why the cheese is so special. It's important to stay connected to your local food chain so we love people to come to our monthly farm dinners, our tours and special events to see for themselves.
Elodie Farms’ products can be found at the Durham Farmers’ Market, Bull City Olive Oil, Bottle 501, and Standard Foods in Raleigh. Visitors are also welcome to participate in monthly Farm Dinners and Farm Tours at the farm’s location on 9522 Hampton Road, Rougemont, NC.
Jaimie Graff, who co-owns Loaf alongside her husband Ron, has put her heart and soul into each and every loaf she’s made over the past twenty years. Speaking with us from behind Loaf’s stand at the market, she let us in on the inspirations that drive Loaf’s organic, artisan baked goods.
Olivia: What are the inspirations behind the styles/types of bread you bake?
Jaimie: Good bread, good food—that was really the inspiration. Twenty something years ago, Ron looked in Food and Wine and went, “That looks really cool. I bet we can do that,” and he started baking. And he’s been searching for the perfect bread and perfect pastries ever since. He looks at everything, reads everything, and tries everything just trying to make it better.
O: How do you think your location in Durham affects the work that you do?
J: We have great people here. Durham is awesome. The first time we showed up at market people blew us out of the water. We have had so much support. If we didn’t have that support we wouldn’t be doing this.
O: How do you choose your ingredients?
J: Quality and taste is the first thing. After that, the Carolina ground flour is very important to us. It is grown and milled here in North Carolina. We try to support the people that support us.
O: How has your approach to baking bread and pastries evolved over time?
J: You get pickier—that’s certainly part of it. We still pay super close attention to quality. I think we are still willing to try lots of things and keep failing until we succeed.
O: What do you hope customers take away from your products?
J: I really hope it brings a little bit of joy and lightness into people’s lives—and good food is good for you! I mean we feed people healthy stuff. There’s nothing bad in anything we are feeding people. It’s all real food and real ingredients.
Loaf can be found at the Durham Farmers’ Market and the Chapel Hill Farmers’ Market, as well as at their storefront in downtown Durham at 111 W. Parrish Street.
Established in 1941, Brinkley Farms is a family-owned farm with a rich heritage grounded in core family values. Brinkley Farms participates in the Community Supported Agriculture (CSA), a program in which community members pre-pay for a specific share of farm products for a set amount of weeks, which they receive at a chosen drop-off or pick-up location. Running Brinkley’s stall with her father at the Market, Madison shared with us her insight on how the farm has grown throughout the years.
Sophia: How has the history of Brinkley Farms shaped what it is today, and how has the farm’s legacy evolved over time?
Madison: The farm has been passed down through three generations and has gradually transitioned from growing tobacco to growing fresh vegetables. [My parents] still farmed tobacco when they first got married, but in the late 90’s tobacco became a less profitable crop than in the past, and other crops started to emerge as a better alternative to keep the farm working at an optimal level. Getting the land ready for the new type of crops was definitely a big challenge in making this change.
S: Can you explain the relationship between family and farm life?
M: Farm life brings you closer. We’re always together—we work together, and stuff has to get done together.
S: What are some of the greatest obstacles you’ve faced as a farming family?
M: Since we’re always working with each other, cooperating can sometimes be a challenge.
S: What inspired Brinkley Farms to start using the CSA program?
M: It’s really just another way to connect to the community and bring the people of Durham together. CSA allows community members to support their local farms while receiving a healthy variety of fresh produce and other quality farm items. When the people that sign up come to pick up their bins, you really get to talk to them and interact on a personal level.
Customers are invited to visit Brinkley Farms at the Durham Farmers’ Market or at the farm’s location at 4233 Old Weaver Trail in Creedmoor.
Words by Olivia Coletta and Sophia Li
Photos by Sophia Li