Nearly 6,000 communities in the United States operate farmers markets. Some operate year-round, some just during the growing season. All of them offer the freshest local produce and best local products. From roasted coffee to nuts, jams to salsa, hand-woven clothing to leather goods, a farmers market takes consumers back to an older era when farmers and craftsmen took pride in their work and neighbors showed their support and appreciation by purchasing their products.
Finding a local farmers market is not very difficult. There are a number of resources to utilize in your search. While the large, well-known markets are easy to find – Dane’s Market, Pike’s Place or New York Greenmarket – most areas do not host a market that large or well-known.
One of the best ways to find a local market is to ask. Word of mouth has been the best advertisement for markets since their beginnings 6,000 years ago. Neighbors, co-workers or family members who frequent farmers market can guide you to the best one (if there is more than one in your area), its times and days of operation, their favorite vendors and the best time to go. Asking someone you know has an added benefit – you can make a family day of it. Take the kids, go with the friend who told you about the market and spend a quality day surrounded by those you love.
The local newspaper usually prints upcoming local events. The event organizer sends the details to the paper to be printed in the events part of the local section. The postings are free to the organizer so farmers markets often notify the paper of their location, dates and times, and what they offer. If you don’t receive the paper, or don’t want to buy one, try the online version of the paper. Events are listed weeks and months in advance, giving you the opportunity to plan your day at the market.
With the growing popularity of farmers markets, and the ease of internet use to find information, lots of websites post listings for farmers markets with all the same information you can find in the paper. Here are some of the best sites for a local search:
Local Harvest – This extensive website gives consumers several search options. You can find local farmers markets, co-ops, farms and restaurants. A quick search in my area yielded 14 local farmers markets. The website also has product categories to narrow your search, a newsletter and blogs from farmers.
Agricultural Marketing Service – This site, from the USDA, offers a local search as well as news articles, funding information, and research and study findings. A search of this website yielded the same results as Local Harvest.
Farmers Market – This site offers a local search as well. Unfortunately, it claims to list all of the farmers markets in the United States but a search of my area yielded no results. The site does have a directory and a search through it yielded some of my local markets.
There are also numerous state and local websites that list local markets. Performing a web search for “farmers market (state name)” should bring you to several such sites.
Many farmers markets also use local advertising. Signs on street corners are popular, as well as flyers on bulletin boards at garden centers, libraries, community centers, and occasionally at churches. A local market may also be advertised in a weekly or monthly community newsletter or bulletin.
Shopping at your local farmers market is one of the most relaxing, and healthiest, activities. Bringing fresh produce home for salads, homemade soups and smoothies is a thrill, and being able to bring other items to complement your produce is a bonus. Don’t be surprised if you drag home breads, cheeses and some fresh coffee or nuts!