Doing some traveling this summer? There’s no better way to get to know a new city or town than to sample the fruits of the land. Road-side produce stands are a treat, but farmers’ markets take the cake for bringing together the greatest variety of fresh fruits and vegetables from local growers, plus many offer crafts and culinary delights from mom-and-pop purveyors from coast to coast.
Farmers’ markets today are much more than just a place to shop for lettuce. They are about celebrating local flavor and color, with so many activities and events, it’s a day out for the whole family.
We put together a list of 10 farmers’ market destinations across the U.S. that are definitely worth a visit. Whether it’s their abundant selection, festive atmosphere, unique offerings, or support of local farmers, these markets stood out. But since we never met a farmers’ market we didn’t like (there are over 8,000 in the U.S.), any one you visit is sure to be enjoyable!
10 Farmers’ Markets You Need To Visit
At first glance, one might not think a desert city would have plentiful produce to offer. But the Santa Cruz River Farmers’ Market delivers. Truly a local favorite, it serves up the best of its farmers’ fare. Started by the Community Food Bank to promote local growers and good, fresh food for all, the market feels more like a block party than a place to buy green things. Live music and cooking demos, seed exchanges, and gardening classes engage the community with all things ultimately edible. Workshops include topics like water harvesting, Mesquite milling, desert harvesting, and even solar cooking! Even local favorite food trucks make weekly appearances. Plus, vendors accept credit and debit cards, food stamps, and WIC vouchers, as well as cash. It’s not the biggest, fanciest market in town, but it has won the hearts of its community, as well as ours.
Santa Cruz, California
After the 1989 Loma Prieta earthquake, Santa Cruz’s farmers’ markets came together as a united front. Now offering five different locations as the Santa Cruz Community Farmers Markets, they have grown to represent over 100 family farms, specialty food purveyors and artisans. And the market boasts one of the largest selections of certified organic produce in California. With locations in Felton, Live Oak, Scotts Valley, Westside and Downtown, the markets run on different days of the week, which, for local residents, means fresh local food every day of the week. The markets accept EBT, WIC and Senior Nutrition Coupons, plus participate in a Market Match program dedicated to increasing the incomes of California farmers by expanding access for low-income communities.
Santa Fe, New Mexico
What started in the late 1960s as a group of farmers selling fresh produce from the back of their trucks has grown to be the biggest farmers’ market in New Mexico. The Santa Fe Farmers’ Market offers locally grown produce and products, representing over 150 vendors. The market now operates all year, and every Sunday, farm food is traded for fine arts and crafts when the market hosts the New Mexico Artisans Market. Other special events include the Cook With the Chef series and Farm Tour, where visitors are invited to tour the farms where their market food was made.
Greensboro, North Carolina
Get your greens on at the Greensboro’s Piedmont Triad Farmers’ Market! The largest of five farmers’ markets owned by the State of North Carolina, the Piedmont market resides in a state-of-the-art facility and is open year-round. Fresh, locally grown fruits and vegetables, grass-fed meat, homemade treats, and potted plants; there is something for everyone – and at reasonable prices that help sustain and support the local farm community. In the winter months, little treasures, like homemade bread and fudge, pre-made, all-natural soups, and fresh goat cheese keep local foodies healthy and happy.
With two locations, the Boulder County Farmers’ Market is a community staple and go-to for locavores. It’s all about the fresh produce, for the people, by the people. Growers include professional farmers with hundreds of acres, weekend farmers with small acreage, backyard gardeners or hobbyists, and even teenagers working small plots to earn extra money. What started as a simple gathering of a few farmers in the 1980s, has since grown to include about 150 vendors, including local artists featured at the monthly art show. The market is open at various times on Wednesdays and Saturdays throughout the summer and fall and features everything from locally sourced crafts, potted seedlings, prepared foods from local bakeries, gourmet cheeses, local honey, and artisan salsas.
Kansas City, Missouri
What began in 1857 as a site for market commerce, horse-trading, political rallies, revival, medicine shows, and circuses, the Kansas City River Market has only grown finer with age. Host to more than 140 vendors, City Market knows a thing or two about providing quality farm products. The market is open daily and invites guests to enjoy not only local products but concerts and festivals as well. On the agenda are events like Movies at City Market Park, and the Farm to Table Kitchen classes, which incorporates an educational component for both vendors and consumers topics such as food safety, preparation, and general nutrition, as well as cooking demonstrations and sampling during the farmers’ market throughout the year.
New Englanders don’t let bad weather put a crimp in their farmers’ market festivities. Burlington Farmers’ Market serves up a batch of the best locally produced food every summer and winter season. Located in City Hall Park during the summer season and moved to Memorial Auditorium for the winter, both treat shoppers to a bounty of fresh, locally grown produce, handmade crafts, sweet and savory treats, and meats and cheeses from Vermont’s lush pastures. Operating for almost 30 years, this mid-sized market of roughly 58 vendors offers the products of a bigger market while keeping the more intimate feel of a smaller one.
Of course, we had to include the Portland Farmers’ Market in Portland, Maine (not far from the Farmers’ Almanac headquarters), which is held in Deering Oaks Park on Saturdays and in Monument Square on Wednesdays from spring to late fall (and also offers indoor market days during the winter months). It has been around since 1768, with strict producer-only standards — it features over 40 local farmers and purveyors of a myriad of locally-grown treats, ranging from cheeses, free-range meats, and produce that only hail from our great state of Maine. With Portland being a popular foodie destination and a strong supporter of the farm-to-table philosophy, you’ll often see the city’s top chefs perusing the market for their restaurants’ weekly menus.
The Chattanooga Market has created a mecca for local farmers, foodies, and artists, making this the place to be, every Sunday from mid-April to November. Vendors bearing garden vegetables, fresh fruit, cheeses, fresh-roasted coffee, homemade salsas, jellies, and cakes draw hungry crowds. And a huge selection of arts and crafts make the Market a treat for the eyes as well. Monthly cooking classes feature recipes using fresh food from the market, and special foodie events like an Ice Cream Social and Fire House Chili Cook-off give the Market the taste of all things Chattanooga.
New York, New York
The massive popularity of the Union Square Greenmarket in New York City proves that the desire to eat and drink local is everywhere. What began over three decades ago with 12 farmers in a parking lot on 59th Street and 2nd Avenue in Manhattan has now grown to become the largest and most diverse outdoor urban farmers’ market network in the country, with over 230 family farms and fishermen participating, and over 30,000 acres of farmland protected from development. Greenmarket is a producer-only market with rigorous “grow-your-own” standards.
The Market is an institution, serving up locally-grown produce, baked goods, and even less common market items like fish and spirits. Arrive early to observe local chefs as they select the freshest produce. Or cruise through after a morning of sightseeing to sample specialty items like pickles, cheeses, jams, wines, and ciders. All-in-all, 60,000 people come to Union Square on market days (Monday, Wednesday, Friday, and Saturday of each week), which makes for a crowded but festive scene. Feel like a local, feast like a king!
Tell us about your favorite farmers’ market in the comments section below. Happy shopping!
Christina Carr is a freelance writer and television producer who has worked for NASA, PBS and John Edward, the psychic medium. She is a proponent of sustainable and healthy living, and lives in NYC with her 4-year-old daughter and musician husband.