The number of farmers markets in the U.S. has more than doubled over the past 10 years, with a steep spike since 2009. Though they were previously seen as places for hippies and country folk to shop, the local food movement and concerns about sustainability have increased their appeal immensely.
As admirable as it is when any community chooses to support their local farmers and buy fresh produce, some farmers markets have taken it to the next level, attracting thousands of shoppers each week including out-of-town visitors. They’ve become destinations for travelers and makeshift culinary schools for aspiring community cooks. Here are 15 of the most impressive farmers markets from across the U.S.
Citizens of Madison, Wis. pride themselves on having the largest producer-only farmers market in the U.S., meaning if you buy something from a booth there, you’re looking at the person who helped cultivate it. The market runs every Saturday throughout the year, and on Wednesdays, too, during the summer. Throughout the year, you’ll find about 300 different vendors there along with street musicians to keep you dancing from booth to booth.
Advocates of eating locally produced food have called Green City Market the best sustainable market in the country. Not only are the organizers of the market dedicated to providing sustainable products for the community, but they also run programs to educate the public on the benefits of sustainability. This includes a hands-on garden for children to see what it takes to grow food, a farmer scholarship program and more.
Formerly known as Sunset Valley Farmers Market, this market had to prove its worth against the healthy food giants Whole Foods and Central Market, which both started in Austin. And it has thrived. You can find Tex-Mex favorites, like spicy seasonings and empanadas, along with most other food flavors owing to Austin’s eclectic population. The market runs every Saturday, and you can find out what goods and vendors are going to be there on its website.
Products from all over the state of Washington are sold at this market, from mushrooms to eggs to salmon. Open all year, the University District market is made up of about 60 producers selling their wares, which are often bought by top chefs in the state. Check the market’s schedule to see when live music or cooking demonstrations will be taking place.
This market in northeastern New York has been operating since 1905 and was voted as America’s favorite large farmers market last year. It’s open three days a week, every week of the year. With about 300 vendors each Saturday, the market draws 2.5 million visitors a year. And it’s not uncommon to find people from all over the world here — many immigrants like that the market feels like those found in their home countries.
It probably comes as no surprise that Portland would be home to some of the best farmers markets around since Oregon is known for its nature-loving population. This market on the campus of Portland State University hosts about 130 growers and vendors and has taken on a campaign to keep the trash generated at the market each Saturday from ending up in a landfill and divert it into composting or recycling projects instead. There is also a kid’s cooking class so that maybe next Mother’s Day you’ll get a decent breakfast in bed.
Enjoy this market year-round in the nation’s capital. Up to 40 farmers sell their goods directly to customers, ensuring the freshness is maintained and putting a face to the idea of local food. This bazaar also accepts food stamps and other government food programs, so even less wealthy families can benefit from the area’s produce and meat. The Dupont Circle market has been named by several major publications as one of the top farmers markets in America.
Find fresh ingredients to cook later and five-star-worthy food to eat immediately at the Ferry Plaza Farmers Market in San Francisco. About 85 vendors set up shop near the water at the Ferry Building three days a week. On Saturdays, the market even offers valet bike parking and a coat-check-like service called Veggie Valet where you can leave the produce you’ve bought while you keep shopping or go to get your car. By realizing these needs of their customers, the market is not only a cool place to spend a day or evening, but also convenient.
This small farmers market runs every Saturday from May to October in Ohio. Even though this market can’t compete in numbers with the country’s larger markets, its sense of community and kind-hearted initiatives make it stand out. The farmers market partners with local organizations that help low-income members of the community so that everyone can afford to eat the healthy, locally grown food sold there.
With the help of this bazaar, Boulder, Colo. was named America’s Foodiest Town 2010 by Bon Appétit. On Saturdays from April to November and Wednesdays from May to October, you can find mobs of people there, arriving on bikes or buses and then spending time in Central Park a few steps away. This market has the longest season in Colorado, so it provides ample opportunity to sample the state’s cuisine and culture.
This Southern market meets in New Orleans’ warehouse district once a week to bring the best local produce to customers. Two other times during the week, the market sets up at other locations to involve more of the city. And to make sure buying goods is as convenient as possible, Crescent City even has its own currency, called Crescents, that you can purchase when you first arrive so that you don’t need to carry cash. They also offer benefits for shoppers on government assistance programs.
Flint’s market is admired by the community, winning first place in the “Love Your Farmers’ Market” contest sponsored by Care2 and LocalHarvest a couple of years ago. Open three days a week, the market offers a wide range of products, from vegetables to art, and hosts special events frequently providing a place for the community to come together.
This producers-only market specializes in southwestern ingredients grown in northern New Mexico. Even 80% of the components of the craft products and processed foods are local, meaning they’re required to come from one of the 15 northern counties. There’s still a large variety, though, with about 100 vendors selling their goods. The market takes place year-round on Saturdays in the city’s rail yard, and adds days during the peak season, offering classes with cooks and farm tours.
Living in the middle of the Midwest farmland has its benefits. This market boasts up to 200 farmers and 18,000 visitors every Saturday from May to October. Local charitable organizations have the opportunity to promote themselves on a special “community corner,” and several bands entertain the crowds throughout the day. Don’t forget to grab some Iowa corn while you’re there.
Even though New York City residents have millions of choices for fresh food, the Union Square Greenmarket attracts up to 60,000 shoppers on a market day. During the summer, the market operates four days a week, with plenty of opportunities to get culinary advice or try new foods. And as a Big Apple institution, the market sells 88 varieties of apples.