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Big buildings and heavy traffic don’t preclude tasting regional produce, supporting small farms, and eating like a local.

As a child,
award-winning chef Steve Corry remembers marveling at the local markets in his
father’s native Ireland, which carried whole
rabbits and baskets of onions and potatoes with dirt still on them. Not
surprisingly, today he prefers to use local growers and producers when buying
ingredients for his restaurant, Five Fifty-Five, in Portland, ME. “I like talking to the farmers…. I like seeing where my food has come from,” he
says. “And smelling it too. I still prefer to pick up a cut of lamb and get
that muttony scent.”

More and more
people these days—not just chefs, but everyday home cooks and travelers,
too—are developing an appreciation for farmers’ markets. In fact, some of these
local spots for buying fruits, vegetables, dairy, seafood, and meat directly
from the growers are even becoming tourist attractions.

As a result,
weekly markets are flourishing across America. According to the U.S. Department of Agriculture, these urban outposts for
farmers have grown from 2,863 in 2000 to 5,274 in 2009. And while part of the
fun of shopping here is certainly sensory (sticking your nose in a bouquet of
fresh dill, testing the snap of wax beans just off the vine, sampling 10 kinds
of apple slices), community sustainability—small regional operations employing
organic or eco-minded practices—is a big part of the draw, too. With the
diversity of farmers’ market offerings these days, the chances to appreciate
such agricultural bounty are, well, bountiful.

So which urban
locales feature the best country flavor? In Travel + Leisure’s annual America’s
Favorite Cities Survey
, we asked
readers to rank 30 U.S. cities on their markets. The consensus? Seattle, Portland, OR, and New Orleans offer the best farmer fare, while Phoenix, Miami, and Las Vegas fared less well. (Of
course, most visitors to Sin City are probably more interested in finding
cherries and watermelons on their slot machines.)

But a poorly
ranked city doesn’t necessarily mean its markets are all bad. New York City finished 25th in our survey, but the Big Apple boasts one of America’s top markets: the sprawling Union Square
Greenmarket
. Here you’ll find
springtime favorites like ramps, sunchokes, and fresh-milled buckwheat
flour—all from farms just a couple hours north of Midtown Manhattan. And at Seattle’s
University District market,
foodies can try chanterelles, truffles, and fiddleheads foraged from the deep
forests that surround the city.

Experiencing
local products—learning their provenance, tasting them, developing an
appreciation for them—makes cooking and eating more enjoyable, says Steve
Corry. It also makes a delicious meal feel something like a communal project.

“When I plan my
restaurant’s menu, it’s not just my choices going into the dishes, it’s the
farmers’,” Corry says. “It’s their menu as much as mine.”

America's Best Farmers' Markets

Big buildings and heavy traffic don’t preclude tasting regional produce, supporting small farms, and eating like a local.

As a child,
award-winning chef Steve Corry remembers marveling at the local markets in his
father’s native Ireland, which carried whole
rabbits and baskets of onions and potatoes with dirt still on them. Not
surprisingly, today he prefers to use local growers and producers when buying
ingredients for his restaurant, Five Fifty-Five, in Portland, ME. “I like talking to the farmers…. I like seeing where my food has come from,” he
says. “And smelling it too. I still prefer to pick up a cut of lamb and get
that muttony scent.”

More and more
people these days—not just chefs, but everyday home cooks and travelers,
too—are developing an appreciation for farmers’ markets. In fact, some of these
local spots for buying fruits, vegetables, dairy, seafood, and meat directly
from the growers are even becoming tourist attractions.

As a result,
weekly markets are flourishing across America. According to the U.S. Department of Agriculture, these urban outposts for
farmers have grown from 2,863 in 2000 to 5,274 in 2009. And while part of the
fun of shopping here is certainly sensory (sticking your nose in a bouquet of
fresh dill, testing the snap of wax beans just off the vine, sampling 10 kinds
of apple slices), community sustainability—small regional operations employing
organic or eco-minded practices—is a big part of the draw, too. With the
diversity of farmers’ market offerings these days, the chances to appreciate
such agricultural bounty are, well, bountiful.

So which urban
locales feature the best country flavor? In Travel + Leisure’s annual America’s
Favorite Cities Survey
, we asked
readers to rank 30 U.S. cities on their markets. The consensus? Seattle, Portland, OR, and New Orleans offer the best farmer fare, while Phoenix, Miami, and Las Vegas fared less well. (Of
course, most visitors to Sin City are probably more interested in finding
cherries and watermelons on their slot machines.)

But a poorly
ranked city doesn’t necessarily mean its markets are all bad. New York City finished 25th in our survey, but the Big Apple boasts one of America’s top markets: the sprawling Union Square
Greenmarket
. Here you’ll find
springtime favorites like ramps, sunchokes, and fresh-milled buckwheat
flour—all from farms just a couple hours north of Midtown Manhattan. And at Seattle’s
University District market,
foodies can try chanterelles, truffles, and fiddleheads foraged from the deep
forests that surround the city.

Experiencing
local products—learning their provenance, tasting them, developing an
appreciation for them—makes cooking and eating more enjoyable, says Steve
Corry. It also makes a delicious meal feel something like a communal project.

“When I plan my
restaurant’s menu, it’s not just my choices going into the dishes, it’s the
farmers’,” Corry says. “It’s their menu as much as mine.”

Steve Minor [1] [1] http://www.flickr.com/photos/sminor/2398841044/

America's Best Farmers' Markets

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