Travel

10 of America's Best Farmers Markets

July  2, 2015

The ten must-see farmers markets you should add to your bucket list.

Vegetable Bounty

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.

Shop the Story

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:

Ferry Plaza Farmers Market
Photo from the Ferry Plaza Farmers Market by Food52er mcs3000 via Real Time Farms

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.

 

Portland State University Farmers Market
Photo from the Portland State University Farmers Market by Samantha Bakall via Real Time Farms

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.

 

Green City Market
Photo from Green City Market by Lissa Dysart via Real Time Farms

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. 

 

Union Square Greenmarket
Image from the Union Square Greenmarket by Kate Galassi via Real Time Farms

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.

 

Mohala Farm
Image from Mohala Farm by Ryan Silsbee via Real Time Farms

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.”

10. Your Local Market
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.

Tell us: What's the best farmers market you've ever visited?

38 Comments

LM November 1, 2017
The Eastern Market in Detroit, Michigan is fabulous! The farmers<br />Come from Indiana, Ohio, Canada, and, of course, Michigan. The produce is varied and lovely and the flowers and trees fror landscaping are legend. This outdoor market has pavilions for vendors, buskers, outdoor barbecue for sale. It is surrounded by restaurants, anguge meat market (the meat packers are located at the perimeters of the market) and lots of niche stores like spice companies. Coffee and tea, candy, fried fruit, mushrooms, the list goes on. It is well worth a trip to Detroit to shop at this fantastic market. And it's been there since the turn of the 19tj century.
 
John O. March 16, 2016
Is Madison, WI's market too big, too good to mention? It does surprise me that it <br /><br />got no mention. The only bad thing about it is too many OTHER people!<br />
 
Toni September 4, 2015
Lindsay, I do think we got carried away here. You make a good point.
 
Author Comment
Lindsay-Jean H. September 3, 2015
I’m pretty disappointed with the tone of many of these comments—the level of negativity just isn’t in-sync with the spirit of this community. This post not intended to be an end-all-and-be-all top 10 list, it’s just 10 farmers markets doing really cool things, like showing a commitment to bringing their communities together, educating people about where their food comes from, protecting the environment, or all of the above. As #10 (Your Local Market) addresses, there are over 8,000 farmers markets in the United States, and thus literally thousands of fabulous markets that didn’t make the list with treasures of their own. We love hearing about your favorites, just please remember to do so in a respectful manner.
 
amg September 2, 2015
I'm shocked and disappointed that Madison wasn't mentioned. It's every bit as stellar as the Ferry in SF and Green City in Chicago. I'll still love this site, but this was a major oversight.
 
Louisa August 31, 2015
Flagstaff Farmers Market is the best in AZ. Not year round due to weather but it makes up for time lost in the summer months.
 
Toni August 17, 2015
I'm with Amy. Seattle's Pike Place. One of best on earth. You blew it.
 
Amy August 14, 2015
How did Seattle Pike Place market not make the lust...wow
 
susan G. July 16, 2015
Santa Fe NM - we were visiting in season for the chile harvest, and in the market, vendors were roasting and skinning and selling as we watched and bought, plus amazing produce, even kimchi, of all sorts. Brattleboro VT - market with a strong community presence; about 1/3 prepared foods, including dim sum, glutenfree bakers, and tables to sit and eat and listen to good musicians and people watch. NY State Thruway - I was happy to find local growers at a mini-market right there by the highway; good thing we were on our way home...
 
Shawn A. July 16, 2015
How could you not include Madison's Danes County Farmers Market? It's clearly a sign you never gone!
 
Lisa G. July 15, 2015
Not having Detroit's Eastern Market on this list. Even in the days when suburbanites looked for reasons not to go in the city, they still came downtown for this fantastic year-round market.
 
gingerroot July 15, 2015
Thrilled to see my little state represented in the top ten! I love our local farmers markets and feel fortunate to have locally grown tropical bounty available year round. I will say that I visited the Portland State University Farmers Market a few years ago (with food52 pal hardlikearmour!) and I was immediately smitten by the beauty and abundance of PNW market goods.
 
Wanda M. July 12, 2015
<br />Congrats to all the markets. My first stop in every town I visit is their farmers market. I have nothing but the highest respect and admiration for honest farmers. Be wary at farmers markets of frauds, however. I personally know a farmer selling pork who advertises No GMo's while feeding GM soy to his hogs. He's been lying to all customers for years and profiting heavily from it.
 
Warren S. July 3, 2015
Hah!! These citified farmer's markets? I'll pass on them in favor of country markets in the northwest.
 
jane.coombs88 July 3, 2015
glad to see the two shouts for the Santa Monica Wednesday market. I agree the Ferry a Plaza market is great as well. It has it all including the stunning location.
 
irishali July 3, 2015
You are missing one of the most amazing markets in the world—the Ithaca Farmer's market. Located on southern tip of Cayuga Lake, it's not only an amazing setting, but the produce is by far the tastiest I have ever had the pleasure of eating.
 
marcia S. July 3, 2015
Madison Wisconsin at the capitol square is the best one ever! Huge market, all around the square.
 
Alix July 4, 2015
Yes, how could you possibly miss the Madison farmer's market? It's legendary!
 
AntoniaJames July 4, 2015
I had the great fortune of going there in late August five years ago, when I installed my son as a first year at UW-M. The local apples were out of this world - and absolutely perfect with the local cheese. I'll never forget it. ;o)
 
Andi July 6, 2015
It's also the largest producer-only farmer's market in the country!
 
Mary July 3, 2015
I loved the Durango farmers market when I lived there. Also, the Memphis Farmers Market is a great market.
 
Jessica S. July 3, 2015
All brilliant! Here in London we love our farmer's markets too, but markets with all types of vendors - cheese, tacos, crafts, beer, chocolate, butchers - tend to be my favourites. <br /><br />If you love farmers markets, you might enjoy my podcast where you can listen to street markets in London and around the world. Our most recent episode features a Brewer's Market in Covent Garden.<br /><br />You can listen here: <br />http://www.streetmarketpodcast.com/ <br />-on iPhone http://apple.co/1xmu5s9 <br />-or just look up the Street Market Podcast on any podcasting app.<br /><br />Happy listening! And keen to know more of your tips!<br /><br />Jess
 
Trena H. July 3, 2015
I was so pleased to see the Davis Farmers Market make the list. When I lived in the U.S. I regularly frequented this market. One of the aspects that makes it a standout is that it's year round and two days a week, Saturdays and Wednesday. Being able to buy fresh produce twice a week made it a no-brainer for me and my family. Also, many of the locals ride their bikes to the market which is great, except for the time I insisted on buying a blueberry pie which made for a really interesting ride home.