Our food system today would be unrecognizable to our ancestors, and the original farmer who planted the seeds and tended the chicken coop has disappeared completely from most of our lives. Here are America’s 10 Best Farmers Markets.
America's 10 Best Farmers Markets (Slideshow)
While many grocery stores now have products with labels like “grass-fed,” “organic,” and “cage-free,” we don’t always know how trustworthy these claims are. But at farmers markets, where we can talk to farmers themselves, we know that whatever we are buying didn’t need an airplane to get there, and thus has no need for the many, many preservatives used to keep food from far-flung places fresh.
To build this list, we pulled from our recent list of the 101 Best Farmers Markets in America for 2015. There are plenty of attributes that we value in a good farmers market. Some important ones to consider are the quality and variety of products sold, how affordable products are, and what kind of public endorsement and recognition each particular farmers market receives. We also value the atmosphere we experience at the market, how friendly and helpful the vendors are, and what kind of information is made available to us about the market and its vendors.
This year, we tweaked the criteria for the ranking a bit, taking into account the markets’ own standards for vendors. We think it is important that farmers markets make the most of what their region has to offer and support local farmers instead of shipping in items from larger producers. Some markets even require vendors selling prepared food to only use ingredients they grew themselves, and their devotion to sustainability was taken into account when we made this list.
We further narrowed down this list by looking the number of vendors at each market, the market’s “street cred” — taking into account the number of Yelp reviews, the reviews themselves, and any accolades the market has won — the market’s devotion to all local produce and goods, and, finally, the market’s Twitter following.
Take a look at the markets that made it to the top 10.
#10 Phoenix Public Market, Phoenix
For many, the Phoenix Public Market is a Saturday morning tradition. With freshly made food like Indian tacos, fried fish, and pulled pork sandwiches (said to be the best in town), you might even stay for lunch at the market café.
#9 Hope Farmers Market, Austin
Described by some as "dripping with Austin attitude," the Hope Farmers Market is a gathering place for everyone. Visitors come to shop for fresh food and one-of-a-kind crafts, and to listen and dance to music performed by local musicians. With market food like wheatgrass, lavender, and mix-and-match ice cream cookie sandwiches, as well as handmade crafts like wooden rocking chairs and beaded jewelry, there’s something here for every free-spirited hipster of Austin.
Click here for more information about the market.
10 of the best farmers' markets in the U.S. (and many are year-round)
Farmers' markets are the heart of a city's culinary pulse, where chefs get inspiration for seasonal specials and where diners can connect with the tireless farmers growing their food. Support local agriculture and taste the best fresh produce and artisan foods at these 10 awesome farmers' markets across the country.
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Farmers' Market, Los Angeles
Claiming to be &ldquothe original&rdquo farmers' market, this well-known spot originated in 1934 when a few farmers settled their trucks on what was, at that point, an empty patch of dirt. Today it&rsquos a thriving marketplace with kiosks, stands, shops, and restaurants. Open all year-round (except Thanksgiving and Christmas), the market features musical performances on Thursdays and Fridays during the summer.
Where to stay: Located on 3rd Street, The Orlando is just a 15-minute walk from the market (albeit along a relatively busy street). This attractive boutique hotel offers a small rooftop pool and large standard rooms.
America's Best Farmers' Markets
As a child, award-winning chef Steve Corry remembers marveling at the local markets in his father&rsquos 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. &ldquoI like talking to the farmers&hellip. I like seeing where my food has come from,&rdquo he says. &ldquoAnd smelling it too. I still prefer to pick up a cut of lamb and get that muttony scent.&rdquo
More and more people these days&mdashnot just chefs, but everyday home cooks and travelers, too&mdashare developing an appreciation for farmers&rsquo 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&mdashsmall regional operations employing organic or eco-minded practices&mdashis a big part of the draw, too. With the diversity of farmers&rsquo 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&rsquos annual America&rsquos 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&rsquot necessarily mean its markets are all bad. New York City finished 25th in our survey, but the Big Apple boasts one of America&rsquos top markets: the sprawling Union Square Greenmarket . Here you&rsquoll find springtime favorites like ramps, sunchokes, and fresh-milled buckwheat flour&mdashall from farms just a couple hours north of Midtown Manhattan. And at Seattle&rsquos University District market, foodies can try chanterelles, truffles, and fiddleheads foraged from the deep forests that surround the city.
Experiencing local products&mdashlearning their provenance, tasting them, developing an appreciation for them&mdashmakes cooking and eating more enjoyable, says Steve Corry. It also makes a delicious meal feel something like a communal project.
&ldquoWhen I plan my restaurant&rsquos menu, it&rsquos not just my choices going into the dishes, it&rsquos the farmers&rsquo,&rdquo Corry says. &ldquoIt&rsquos their menu as much as mine.&rdquo
The Best Farmers' Markets in America
These 14 markets are worth a pit stop on your next road trip.
These days, farmers' markets offer more than just nature's finest and freshest produce. These 14 markets have devoted local fans&mdashfrom near and far&mdashmaking them a destination in their own right.
It&rsquos a major tourist attraction for a reason: The Pike Place Farmers Market has it all! Not only can you buy tasty treats, but you can also shop for one-of-a-kind items from artisans and small business owners, all of which make up this legendary hotspot.
Nestled near the Anheuser-Busch Brewery, this year-round staple is a delicious place to stock up on your fruits and veggies, as well as snacks like kettle corn. It&rsquos been operating since 1779, and once you visit, you&rsquoll understand why.
(Historic Soulard Farmers Market, Wednesdays and Thursdays 8 am-5 pm, Fridays 7 am-5 pm, and Saturdays 7 am-5:30 pm)
New Orleans is known for having all kinds of colorful attractions, but the Crescent City Farmers Market is one if its best. It's actually a collection of seven weekly markets in the area, offering the best in produce, baked goods, flowers, seafood, and more. Is your mouth watering yet?
(Crescent City Farmers Markets, open at various locations and times Tuesday-Saturday)
Manhattan's Union Square becomes home to dozens of vendors most Saturdays of the year. Celebrating its 15th season, the market is a popular stop for New Yorkers and tourists alike, who stop in to browse locally made cheeses from nearby farms, fresh flowers, fish, baked goods, and more.
This producers-only market has a bazaar-like component&mdashwith beauty products, arts and crafts, and handmade furnishings&mdashand has helped to draw more than 8,000 visitors on especially nice Sundays. Visit the gourmet pickle stand In A Pickle, which has an ardent fan base who loves its nine varieties, or wash down a snack down with classic glass-bottled milk from South Mountain Creamery.
When it started in 2006, the Brattleboro Winter Farmers' Market gave farmers a place to sell their still-plentiful produce when traditional markets had closed for the winter. In addition to making fresh, local food affordable to those in the community (they accept SNAP, formerly known as food stamps), the Saturday market has also become a destination for foodies from Massachusetts who love its proximity to I-91.
(Winter Farmers' Market, Saturdays, November through March, 10am-2pm
If Vermont winters don&rsquot entice you, plan a summer stop at the decades-old Brattleboro Farmers' Market, May through October.)
Operating since 1989, the market at Marion Square is a hit with locals, who cite the bounty of non-food treats at this market, including Scarlet Poppy jewelry, and the magnolia cream products from Charleston Soap Chef. If you're in the market for furniture, check out Capers Cauthen's Landrum Tables made of reclaimed local wood. Have a bite at Charleston Crepe Company, one of the most popular&mdashand longest-running&mdashfood vendors, or try Roots Ice Cream, which scoops up locally-sourced flavors like Sweet Tea and Honeysuckle.
(Charleston Farmers' Market, Saturdays, April 13 through December 30, 8am-2pm)
Since it began in 1976, the Des Moines market has grown from 15 vendors to nearly 300, and now averages 25,000 visitors each Saturday. In addition to Iowa-grown, chemical-free produce and local meats and cheeses, there are six venues for arts, crafts and entertainment, plus a weekly kids' activity to enchant the younger attendees. Spanning nine city blocks, is it any wonder people line up for the Farm Boys' breakfast burritos to help them power through? For a more uncommon taste, check out Pupusasa El Salvador, a Salvadoran-style maize-flour tortilla stuffed with cheese, beans, or meat.
(Des Moines Downtown Farmers' Market, Saturdays, May-October, 7am-12pm. There's also a smaller Wednesday market in late summer, and an occasional Winter market.)
Portland Farmers Markets, which started with 13 vendors in a parking lot, has become a no-small-potatoes empire over the past 21 years: In 2011 they generated $8 million in sales from more than 650,000 shoppers. The flagship market, at Portland State University, draws nearly 150 vendors including foragers, farmers, fishermen, bakers, cheesemongers, and wine makers. Average shoppers number from about 12,000 to 16,000 each Saturday, and many are there to enjoy music performances, chef demonstrations, and kids' cooking classes. All seven Portland Farmers Markets accept SNAP funds (formerly known as food stamps), which makes fresh, local foods available to lower income residents.
(Portland Farmers Market at PSU, Open year-round on Saturdays 8:30am-2pm, April through October 9am-2pm, November through March)
A welcome stop along the I-95 corridor, Rowayton's historic Pinkney Park hosts on average 30 vendors, and offers views of the Long Island Sound and the Five-Mile River. Although it's a young market, it is beloved in the community, with regulars shopping every week and a number of local vendors, too, including Brown Dog Fancy and Bark Avenue Bites' treats for four-legged friends. Don't miss the homemade family recipes at Kelly's Four Plus Granola. Before you leave, catch a tour of the circa-1800 Pinkney House, with its mid-19th century interiors depicting its heyday as a prosperous farmhouse.
Local residents Ana Nieto and Ivo Tomasini created the Sag Harbor's Fair Foods Farmers' Market in 2003 with a goal of encouraging the local economy in the "off-season." It's one-stop shopping for colorful produce (cabbages, beets, carrots, kale, fennel, squash), free-range and hormone-free animal products like eggs and cheeses and baked goods, in addition to local indulgences like Kerber&rsquos Farm and Amagansett Sea Salt Co.
Nestled in Lincoln Park, adjacent to the lakefront, Green City Market operates year-round (outdoors from May through November). It is believed to be the only market in the country that requires third-party certifications of all vendors, such as Certified Naturally Grown, USDA Certified Organic, or Animal Welfare Approved. (See the entire list here.) Try the amazing popcorn from
Alden Hills Organic Farms and grab Bennison's Bakery or pHlour Bakery breads&mdashmade from organic flours&mdashbefore they sell out. But prior to loading up your arms, be sure to visit the city's adjacent free zoo.
Discover Colorado-made, -grown, or -produced foods and goods from 30 vendors and 70 artisans. The non-profit, 13-year-old market has a juried application process, making it highly selective. Kids can learn about sustainable food and meat at the education booth. Best of all, pick up some prepared foods and grab a seat in the adjacent park to savor the picture-perfect view of Ajax Mountain.
(Aspen Saturday Market, Saturdays, June through October, 8am-3pm)
Centrally located outside the Grange Hall in town center, the West Tisbury Farmers Market will celebrate its 45th anniversary this summer. Thought to be unique among its peers, the market rules require that all of the approximately 50 vendors grow or make their products on Martha's Vineyard. It's also managed by two of its vendors, life-long island native Linda Alley and Rusty Gordon (she's the lady behind New Lane Sundries jams, jellies and gourmet mustards and he's an organic farmer). About two-thirds of the goods are farm products, and the remaining vendors offer non-consumables, like Seastone Papers' handmade jewelry.
(West Tisbury Farmers Market, Summer: Saturdays, June 8-October 12, 9am-12pm Wednesdays, June 19-August 28, 9am-12pm. Fall: Saturdays, October 19-December 14, 10am-1pm)
From the moment it opens in the morning, this market is bustling with shoppers from Oakland’s neighboring Chinatown. But braving the competitive atmosphere is worth it to see bushels of Asian vegetables such as yardlong beans, bitter melons, luffa, lemongrass, shiso, and Vietnamese coriander, or to learn the difference between _yu choy, pei tsai, _and pak choy. Finish your visit with lunch at one of the food vendors in the revamped Housewives Market (also called Swan’s Market)—I recommend the expertly made tacos at Cosheca Cafe.
For those interested in the roots of foodie fixations such as locally sourced, organic, and sustainable farm-to-table eating, start here. This place is a who’s who of the country’s most well-known and influential purveyors, including Cowgirl Creamery, Blue Bottle Coffee, Far West Fungi, Frog Hollow Farm, Green Gulch Farm, Hog Island Oyster Co., and June Taylor jams and jellies. The market, which is run by the Center for Urban Education About Sustainable Agriculture (CUESA), stretches to 100 stands at peak season. Find more edible delights in the Ferry Building or take a stroll along the waterfront after your visit.
Shop These Top 10 U.S. Farmers Markets
There’s no better place for local, sustainable food than farmers markets, which carry the freshest fruits, vegetables, meat and fish. And now that the warm weather has arrived, many of the markets are heading outdoors. Visit our blog for Forbes Travel Guide’s roundup of the top 10 markets around the country, and what kinds of demonstrations, produce and local events you’ll want to make sure you plan a visit around.
At Chicago’s Green City Market, the action moves outside to Lincoln Park beginning in May with 55 stalls jam-packed with everything from elk meat to more than 20 varietals of plums. Throughout the summer, Top Chef alum Dale Levitski and Top Chef Master winner Rick Bayless are among the headliners who will hold cooking demonstrations. At the Santa Fe Farmers’ Market, held at the town’s newly hip Railyard Artisan Market, you can join in the Cook With A Chef series on Thursday nights, and learn how to put the produce on sale to use in recipes by local chefs. There are plenty more markets to check out, so go to our blog for the full story. —Caroline Patek
Chicago's Green City Market, photo courtesy Grape Vine Public Relations
Forbes Travel Guide, formerly Mobil, created America's original hospitality Star Rating system in 1958. Since then, its team of incognito inspectors have checked into
Store-bought tomatoes aren't even in the same league as farm-raised varieties found at farmers' markets. Ripe, right-off-the-vine Roma, beefsteak, or grape tomatoes are a tasty summer treat, both alone or alongside a nice steak. They're rich in vitamin C and lycopene, two nutrients your body needs to function. Plus, you'll need some excellent tomatoes for that fresh, healthy gazpacho we know you're going to make!
10 Meals Straight from the Farmers Market
Without a doubt, visiting the local farmers market is one of our favorite ways to get a feel for a new city we’re visiting. Not only do you get to check out what fruits and vegetables are grown nearby, but you get to people-watch! And of course, at the end of the day, you get to make dinner with all your farmers market finds. Let these ten recipes inspire your next farmers market visit — and the next meal you make.
You’re always sure to find plenty of fruits and vegetables at the farmers market, but these days, we can often find milk, yogurt, eggs, local beef and pork, cheese, bread, and even fish. This lets us branch out into dishes like pork shank braised with fennel and tomatoes, kale and goat cheese frittata cups made with farm-fresh eggs, and easy baked fish in foil packets.
Cooking entirely from the farmers market is also a lesson in being flexible. Maybe the recipe calls for green peppers, but those aren’t quite in season yet. Can you leave them out? Could you substitute zucchini instead? If the bread vendor is sold out, maybe your sandwich recipe could become a salad. If the dairy truck isn’t there today, maybe your creamy soup becomes a broth. Use recipes like those below as a template and adapt your meal to what you find at the market.
The idea is to use what you find at the market as the inspiration for your next meal — start there and you’ll be guaranteed a tasty, seasonal meal to top all others.