Lifelong peanut butter lover Mark Overbay and his wife Megan founded Durham-based Big Spoon Roasters in 2011. Inspired by his experience making peanut butter by hand as a Peace Corps Volunteer in Zimbabwe, Mark makes use of a staple of Durham agriculture—peanuts, as well as other nuts and ingredients local to the area. Big Spoon Roasters’ nut butters are available for sale in the 21c Durham Museum Shop in a variety of flavors and highlighted in Counting House menus.
Are you native to Durham? If not, how did you end up here?
I moved to Durham in early 2006 to join the team at Counter Culture Coffee. Through an evolving role there and volunteer work on the board of our local Slow Food chapter, I met and became inspired by so many incredible people who contribute to our vibrant local food community.
How did you start making nut butters? When did you turn it into a business?
Gardening, hunting down ingredients, cooking, and preparing meals have long been passions of mine. Our relationship with food is one of the most intimate and important relationships we humans have, and I’ve devoted my career (and much of personal life) to trying to help expand people’s food choices into more delicious and sustainable territories.
Big Spoon’s philosophy about food is based on the belief that food matters. It matters to our health, our happiness, and the well being of our planet. Food should be delicious, nutritious, and good for all those involved in producing it. For us, cooking and sharing food with others is a great joy.
We source ingredients from only trusted, transparent farms and producers that share this philosophy. Peanuts are a tremendous agricultural resource for the American Southeast, and of our 50 states, North Carolina is ranked sixth in terms of peanut production. We are thrilled to be able to work with local and regional peanut farmers and to be a positive market force for sustainable peanut agriculture.
The name “Big Spoon” is a tribute to my dad, Gary, of Kingsport, TN, where I and several generations of my paternal family grew up. One day, when I was six, I walked into the family kitchen to find my dad having one of his favorite snacks – a big spoonful of peanut butter straight from the jar. I blurted out, “big spoon!” and the nickname stuck. To this day, my friends from Kingsport still call Gary “Big Spoon,” and well, there was no question about what I was going to name the nut butter business.
What do you love about living in Durham? Are there a lot of other food producers that operate on the same scale in the area?
We love Durham, and there is so much to love here! Every jar of Big Spoon Roasters nut butter has DURHAM spelled out twice, and this will always be our home. There is a soulful, energetic, underdog spirit to Durham that inspires us every day. There is certainly a great deal of entrepreneurship in Durham and the surrounding areas, and such business generation and growth is important to the vitality of any community. We are proud to be a tiny part of that. The Durham Living Wage Project, of which we are a member, is one of the first successful models of its kind anywhere, and we hope it serves as a positive example beyond our region.
We are singularly unique in our approach to nut butter making by even national standards, but there are makers operating in other spaces that represent a similar small-batch, handcrafted approach. Loaf Bakery is phenomenal and right here in Durham. Lil’ Farm is making fantastic small-batch ginger-turmeric syrup. Nearby, but not technically in Durham, Farmer’s Daughter Pickles & Preserves, Escazu Artisan Chocolate, Videri Chocolate, Boulted Bread, Prodigal Farm, Boxcarr Handmade Cheese, and Chicken Bridge Bakery are all superb. Also, our local farming community is one of the best and most diverse in the country.