Farmers Markets

The 5 Best Cities for People Who Love Farmers Markets

Do you live in one of these?

by:
June 25, 2019

Going grocery shopping isn’t exactly the most exhilarating thing I can think of, but bring me to the farmers market, and I’ll browse for hours and spend like I’m the Barefoot Contessa on Friday morning before Jeffrey comes home.

In the Nora Ephron–directed version of my life, there are farmers markets everywhere, and I always have oodles of time to browse through the farm-fresh produce and to expertly squeeze every piece of fruit that catches my eye, no matter what time of day it is or what my work schedule looks like. In fact, nothing makes me want to call in sick more than getting off the train at 14th Street and walking through the Union Square Greenmarket (open Mondays, Wednesdays, Fridays, and Saturdays, year round).

As it turns out, if you are always on the hunt for a good farmers market like me, you don’t need to live in East Hampton or on the set of When Harry Met Sally—you just need to look at the geographical data. According to a recent study by Empire Today, the most farmers markets in the U.S. aren’t in New York, the farm-friendly Pacific Northwest, or even sunny California, but rather spread across a few unexpected cities that have been quietly leading the open-air market revolution.

What makes a city a good one for farmers markets?

Empire Today’s research looked at 100 cities, considering factors like the number of farmers markets per 100,000 people, the number of farmers markets that accept credit cards per that same population, the average cost of produce, and other factors that make it actually pleasant to shop outside, like the average precipitation level beginning in April and the average percentage chance of sunshine in April.

Join The Conversation

Top Comment:
“I live in northern Wisconsin and I have a tiny farmers market in my town on Wednesday afternoon, plus I have the incredible fortune to have a farm to table delivery service as well. So though it is a 4 hour drive to Mad-town, I have outstanding produce available to me. :) ”
— deb O.
Comment

Other important considerations included the city’s walk score, aka how easy it is to stroll around the city with a canvas bag or two and return home with a farm-fresh bounty, and the percentage of land made up of parkland. Each factor was weighted, with the number of markets per 100,000 people being given the highest consideration.

Based on all these factors, here are the five best cities for people who love farmers markets:

1. Washington, D.C.

Washington, D.C. scored the highest overall at 31.6 points out of 50, with high marks in terms of the number of markets (just over 8 farmers markets per 100,000 people), the number that accept credit cards (just under 7 markets per 100,000), and a 62 percent chance of sunshine in April, as well as a very high walk score of 77 out of 100 points. However, even though D.C. has a relatively high number of markets, it did have the highest average produce cost at $2.74 per produce—which means that the pleasure of being able to buy directly from farmers, in D.C. at least, isn’t cheap.

2. Madison, Wisconsin

In a close second was Madison, Wisconsin (31.5 points), where there are at least 6 (close to 7) markets per 100,000 people, most of which accept credit cards, and where the average produce cost is a more affordable $1.06 per piece.

3. El Paso, Texas

In third place was El Paso, Texas (31.3), where, although there are just 1.76 farmers markets per the considered population size, and most don’t accept credit cards, the high likelihood of sunshine in April (89 percent) and the low cost of produce (92 cents) make it a good city to eschew regular grocery shopping.

4. Tucson, Arizona

Tucson, Arizona, scored fourth on Empire Today’s rankings despite having just 3.23 percent of land as parkland. This is perhaps because beginning in April, there was a 90 percent chance of sunshine, given that "weather is extremely important to the farmers market experience," Empire Today notes, "and rain can lead to low turnout and even cancellations."

5. Richmond, Virginia

In fifth place was Richmond, Virginia (30.8), not far from D.C., where there are just under 6 farmers markets available to every 100,000 residents, and most accept credit cards.

As for the rest of America, of the top 50 cities, 16 of the best farmers market cities are in California, including San Francisco, Oakland, Sacramento, and Fresno, as well as a few top contenders in Arizona—Gilbert, Scottsdale, and Chandler.

Conversely, cities that scored low on this list tended to have high amounts of rain in April, leading to less engagement with these outdoor markets. Despite a high walk score (89), New York scored quite low out of 100 cities because of factors like high produce cost ($2.30 per item) and less than one farmers market per 100,000 people—though in terms of raw data, the highest total number of farmers markets (66).

The worst-performing city surveyed was Nashville, Tennessee, due to its low walk score (28) and the fact that less than half of its farmers markets accept credit cards.

Do you live in one of these cities? If not, where do you live, and do you shop at a farmers market regularly? Tell us in the comments below.

Join the Conversation

See what other Food52 readers are saying.

  • Kathy Sample
    Kathy Sample
  • Lauren Miller
    Lauren Miller
  • ellen clawson
    ellen clawson
  • Barbara Connell
    Barbara Connell
  • deb oswald
    deb oswald
Comment
Karen Lo

Written by: Karen Lo

lunch lady

18 Comments

Kathy S. July 14, 2019
Thanks for the focus on farmer's markets! Here in Washtenaw County, MI we have 13 markets in our county alone! Between farmers markets, CSAs and other models that feature locally grown food, we're all better off knowing who is growing our food!
 
Lauren M. July 14, 2019
Why would rain in April matter? A good portion of the country only has outdoor markets during the main growing season (usually May-October or so) but they’re phenomenal during those months!
 
ellen C. July 13, 2019
I live in a Richmond suburb and love our Farmers Markets! I am within 10-30 minutes of 3 of them. We have a lot of farms all around the city. We have a lot of variety and I love them!
 
Barbara C. July 13, 2019
First, I lived in Tucson for 20 years and the FMs were not wonderful. Lots of crafty stuff and vegetables that weren’t in season. Where were they trucked in from? I now live in Eugene, OR and the produce in wonderful and home grown. Fresh, juicy ripe plums, cherries right now. Tomatoes and corn soon. I nominate Eugene.
 
deb O. July 13, 2019
I have been to the Madison, WI farmers market many times and it is spectacular! I love going there. I live in northern Wisconsin and I have a tiny farmers market in my town on Wednesday afternoon, plus I have the incredible fortune to have a farm to table delivery service as well. So though it is a 4 hour drive to Mad-town, I have outstanding produce available to me. :)
 
Karen B. July 13, 2019
I agree! The Madison Farmers Market is the best. I live about 30 minutes away from the Madison market, it is a whole experience. Beautiful flowers, wonderful veggies & fruit all in a beautiful setting around the state capital. Great farmers market!
 
Smaug July 6, 2019
Fortunately, a lot of people don't live in big cities- suburbs are more amenable to this sort of market; I suppose it's a little different if you're in the country.
 
Christine H. June 28, 2019
Really, not Santa Monica, Hollywood, San Francisco? Come on, you have something against the West Coast?
 
CocoJuju July 9, 2019
I'm surprised not one Farmers Market on the West Coast was included. I may be biased, but West Coast Farmers Markets have the best variety. Portland and Seattle didn't make the list either.
 
Merry June 28, 2019
Yes on DC - we live in the District and can easily access multiple markets each week. In addition to the many markets under the Fresh Farm umbrella, there are many smaller, but amazingly good markets around town. This is a produce-lovers dream venue.
 
Janee’ June 27, 2019
PNW !! Fresh fruit every week !! Lots of fresh greens !! Produce well into fall !!
 
jason July 6, 2019
Yes! I love my portland farmers markets
 
Emily L. June 27, 2019
I'm from San Diego, CA & we have about 4 - 10 farmers markets a day in the whole of the county. We have them in all income brackets (snap accepted @ 95% of them) & many are near public transportation. Our weather is pretty awesome most of the year & we have lots of farms within our county. You can get all the regular fruits & vegetables, eggs/poultry, beef, bison, pork, seafood... you name it we probably have it! Just saying 😉
 
carmenb206 June 27, 2019
What about farmers markets that accept SNAP? Probably not a lot of overlap between Food52 readers and SNAP beneficiaries, but something to consider. Not everyone has credit cards.
 
MarieGlobetrotter June 25, 2019
Montreal, people, Montreal
 
Lesli R. June 28, 2019
I love Montreal markets!
 
Nichole June 25, 2019
I’m surprised that Lancaster, PA didn’t make this list.
 
boulangere June 25, 2019
5?!?! Shame on us.