Ten of America's Best Farmers Markets
We love visiting farmers markets—and judging by the photos you share with us every week, you love them, too. Farmers markets provide some of the best places to get fresh, seasonal produce (often at prices better than a grocery store's, too). But they also play other important roles in our communities.
By purchasing your goods directly from the people who grow it, you're supporting family farms, stemming the rapid loss of farmland, and helping to guarantee that more money stays in your community. According to American Farmland Trust, for every $10 spent at a farmers market, as much as $7.80 is re-spent in the community, supporting jobs and businesses.
And, a number of farmers markets are going above and beyond merely being a point of sale: They're committed to bringing their communities together, educating people about where their food comes from, protecting the environment. Here are 10 of those farmers markets:
1. Ferry Plaza Farmers Market—San Francisco, California
Located on the San Francisco Bay with an enviable view, the Ferry Plaza Farmers Market isn’t connected with the neighboring Ferry Building’s interior shops, as you might suspect. But the presence of the market was a key component in the redevelopment and renovation of the landmark building, which was completed in 2003. The year-round, three-days-a-week market provides educational programming, like cooking demonstrations, programs to help shoppers learn about their food, where it comes from and how to use it, and a photomural exhibit inside the Ferry Building which visually depicts concepts in sustainable farming.
2. Nashville Farmers’ Market—Nashville, Tennessee
The Nashville Farmers’ Market isn’t just a year-round market, it’s a daily market, open 362 days a year. It began in the early 1800s and has had several homes; its current location covers an impressive 16 acres of urban land. The market is home to not only farmers and artisans, but also restaurants, merchants, a weekend flea market, and special events like culinary classes.
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3. Portland State University Farmers Market—Portland, Oregon
This year-round market has more than 200 different vendors and offers chef demonstrations, food education events, and live music. Kids can take part in activities at the Market Play Zone (like making food-themed art projects and playing fruit and vegetable bingo) and participate in cooking classes where they meet local farmers and learn about seasonality. And don’t worry about lugging around your heavy purchases—they can be left at the Veggie Valet while you continue to shop or retrieve your car.
4. Saint Paul Downtown Farmers’ Market—Saint Paul, Minnesota
The St. Paul Farmers' Market has been a part of the community for over 150 years: Their first public market began in a two-story brick building in 1853, close to the market’s current home. With more than 300 vendors, the market is one of the largest in the country—you’re guaranteed to find a wide variety of produce, plants, artisan-made foods, and more.
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5. Green City Market—Chicago, Illinois
Green City Market is a year-round farmer’s market that supports and promotes local, sustainable agricultural practices. Vendors go through a vigorous application process to ensure they are treating animals humanely, eliminating the use of pesticides or choosing more environmentally-friendly options, and working to preserve their farmland for future generations. The market has a centralized waste disposal area with composting and recycling facilities and uses signage to promote heirloom and heritage products. And they have exciting programming as well: the Edible Gardens program provides hands-on gardening education to the community, and Club Sprouts encourages children to try new foods. Little wonder that Alice Waters has called it "the best sustainable market in the country.”
6. Farmers Market of the Ozarks—Springfield, Missouri
The Farmers Market of the Ozarks is home to farmers, artisans, food cart vendors and more, all growing or making their own products from within 150 miles of the market. Twice a year, the market holds an event to help the community understand how their food gets from a farm to their plate. Participants can tour local farms and then enjoy a meal prepared with locally-grown ingredients.
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7. Union Square Greenmarket—New York City, New York
Union Square Greenmarket is open four days a week year-round and serves more than 60,000 people on any given day; amazingly, it's just one of more than 50 Greenmarkets providing New Yorkers with locally-grown food. Yes, we think of this as "our" market—it's where we go to source food for photo shoots and it was a favorite lunch spot when the team worked at the nearby General Assembly—but those aren't the only reasons whey we love it. Depending on the day, you might find cooking demonstrations, free Food Stamp screenings, food scrap collection, textile recycling, and events (like book signings, as our own Kristen Miglore did). Their education programming connects thousands of New York City schoolchildren with Greenmarkets and farmers, providing opportunities for the children to learn about how food choices impact not only their bodies, but the environment and their community, too.
8. Davis Farmers Market—Davis, California
Located in the city’s Central Park, the Davis Farmers Market takes up a third or more of the five-acre park, depending on the day. On Wednesday evenings from spring through the fall, the market hosts a Picnic in the Park event with music, food and beverage vendors, and kids’ activities. The market hosts other festivals throughout the year too, one of which, the Village Feast, raises funds to get farm-fresh food in the schools. Nearby the market sits an old-fashioned pedal-powered carousel: It’s overseen by the market, but local school classrooms can sign up to run it for a day and receive the resulting profits.
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9. Haleiwa Farmers Market—Haleiwa, Hawaii
The Haleiwa Farmers Market is one of Oahu’s Premiere Green Markets, and they take the “green” part of their name seriously. Shoppers are encouraged to bring their own bags, all food vendors use only bio-compostable utensils and plates, and it's suggested that vendors come up with unique ways of packaging items that you’d usually find in plastic bags—like using palm fronds or a banana leaf to wrap up a handful of green beans. And nothing comes from the mainland or China, so everything you see at the market comes from local farms like Mohala Farm, pictured above. Take note, in case you plan to visit them on a Thursday afternoon: The market is open rain or shine, but “tsunami, maybe not.”
Wait, don't roll your eyes! Did you know that the City Market in Kansas City, Missouri offers a free valet service called the Tomato Taxi to help customers get purchases to their vehicles after shopping? Or that the Ithaca Farmers Market in Ithaca, New York is taking locally-grown to an impressive level (all 160 vendors come from within 30 miles of the market)? With over 8,000 farmers markets in the U.S., there’s almost certainly a farmers market near you, and until you start frequenting it, you won’t know the treasures it holds.
This article originally appeared on food52.com.