The farmers around Charleston who raise okra, tomatoes, strawberries, greens, and eggs—along with plenty of other produce, meat and seafood—don’t have to drive far to set up shop at the area’s farmers’ markets. A few roads and bridges are all that separates them from the terrific markets held every week downtown, in the Mount Pleasant area, and on the surrounding islands.
These markets, which are typically held outdoors for a morning or afternoon each week (with busiest seasons in the summer and fall) are a great way to get familiar with Ambrose, Fields, Rosebank, and other longstanding Lowcountry farms. While these growers have been fixtures at the farmers’ markets for years, lately more and more young farmers are adding new energy to the agricultural scene. I bring a canvas shopping bag and look for favorites like sweet corn, coolers of heads-on shrimp, and pouches of hand-shelled butterbeans. Vendors often sell prepared food, too, from baguette sandwiches to tacos, popsicles, coffee and barbecue. You can typically also find herbs to take home in pots, or handfuls of just-picked flowers—hydrangeas, sunflowers, zinnias—for sale in canning jars.
Charleston Farmers Market
Go early to this Saturday downtown market, especially in summer, for the least bustle and first pick of peaches or tomatoes. You can also grab a cup of coffee or some boiled peanuts; you may need energy to battle the crowds that increasingly fill Marion Square to browse for ingredients, snacks, and art and crafts. There’s great people-watching; keep an eye out and you might spot a Charleston chef or two shopping.
Mount Pleasant Farmers’ Market
This town built permanent sheds for its open-air market a few years ago, making it a centerpiece of Coleman Boulevard (the main drag of Mount Pleasant). It seems like everyone in town stops by on Tuesday afternoons from spring to fall, and the big holiday market in December, where people shop for gifts and special-meal ingredients, feels like family block party.
Boone Hall Farms Market
This daily, year-round Mount Pleasant market is best known in recent years for its U-pick fields of strawberries, pumpkins and other vegetables. You can see what’s growing on the historic 17th-century plantation land as you drive past on Highway 17; the market itself is held in a refurbished packing shed. Local seafood’s available, too, and there’s a cafe serving fried chicken and she-crab soup.
Homegrown Johns Island
Spanning a large field, this is one of the newest farm markets, even though it’s set on the island that’s home to many of Charleston’s oldest and best-known farms. Local breads, cheeses, granola, and pickled and fermented foods are also available here. It’s held Saturday mornings, and there’s often entertainment and games for kids.
Sunday Brunch Farmers Market
Each Sunday, farmers bring fresh-picked fruits and vegetables, and local food trucks gather under the oak trees, in the Riverland Terrace neighborhood of James Island. With its hip, offbeat flair, this tucked-away market often draws an artsy, younger crowd. People may hang out awhile, spinning hula hoops or sitting in on acoustic guitar jam sessions.