How to find local farmers markets and how to know what’s in season near you

According to the Department of Agriculture, there are more than 6,100 operational farmers markets in the U.S. These markets are a way for farmers to sell their fresh, locally grown and raised items directly to the consumer in the season when the food is harvested.

The majority of farmers markets are only open March through November, but close to 900 stay open during the winter months. To find the farmers markets near where you live, and their schedules, check out:

To learn what foods are in season and when, check out:

  • Eat the Seasons, a website tailored to what foods are in season this week in North America (vegetables, nuts, meat, etc.), or
  • Find what produce is in season at the National Resources Defense Council’s Eat Local search engine. (Oddly, not all states appear to be listed at this time. A search of surrounding states should provide expected produce availability.)

The vast majority of farmers and vendors at markets only accept cash for their items. Sometimes, there are vendors with snack items — kettle corn, freshly brewed coffee, cupcakes — so be sure to bring a few extra dollars if you want to enjoy a treat. Vendors might also charge for bags, so bring a few reusable produce and shopping bags with you to avoid the extra charge. I’m also not sure why this is the tradition, but the phrase “farmers market” doesn’t include any possessive punctuation.

Remember, too, not all farmers markets are created equally. Try out a few different locations near your home and/or office to find the right farmers and vendors for your needs.

You can also learn a lot from the people staffing the vendor stalls. Usually these people are the same folks who work the land and are responsible for bringing the food to market. They know if this year is going to be a good one for strawberries, or if Downy mildew is wreaking havoc on their basil. In a grocery store you can’t forge a relationship with the grower, so definitely take advantage of this access at a farmers market to help plan your meals and learn as much as you can about the foods you eat.

7 comments posted

  1. Posted by Jacki Hollywood Brown - 01/04/2011

    In Canada try the “Eat Local” tab at http://www.SOSCuisine.com

  2. Posted by Heather - 01/04/2011

    My state only has “Christmas Trees and Wreaths” in season until March. I’m not really sure I’m meant to eat those things : )

  3. Posted by Julie - 01/04/2011

    I was also going to recommend SOS Cuisine (for Canadian readers), but Jacki beat me to it. SOS Cuisine also provides tailored meal plans based on what’s in season and on sale locally.

  4. Posted by Spencer - 01/06/2011

    You might also check out Real Time Farms. It is a “crowd sourced” site, so if others in your area are using it, there will be information there for you.

  5. Posted by Mikey - 01/18/2011

    I think Google is a better source for locating Farmer’s markets. I tried both sites you listed, and neither one seems very up-to-date. They are missing two very large ones, and several small ones locally.

    Or, as a simpler and more uncluttered option, just ask friends, neighbors, and co-workers if they know of any.

  6. Posted by Availle - 01/19/2011

    I’m not sure about the farmers markets where I live (Asia). Given the large amount of specialization in modern food industry, it’s very unlikely that the owner of any of the stands is really growing all the veg himself… They seem to be more like small scale grocery stores. And I’m not sure I’d like to buy fish/meat that has been around all morning without any more cooling than some icecubes placed on top…

    But then again, I like the small food stands where you can buy small snacks. Nothing beats that kind of lunch! :-)

    I’m also not sure why this is the tradition, but the phrase “farmers market” doesn’t include any possessive punctuation.

    Might it be that it could possibly indicate a plural? ;-)

  7. Posted by Living the Balanced Life - 01/19/2011

    My daughter particpated in a local farmers market this past summer. She doesn’t actually grow anything, but makes a gourment wine jelly. Until she is able to get licensed the only place she can sell is at farmers market. She really enjoyed it and I want to to emphasize checking with local chambers of commerce. The one she was in was run by the city (mid-size surburbia) and had quite a following.
    I don’t live in her town, but we also have a smaller farmers market in my town that I will be visiting next year. I have a large international market I can go to, but my goal is to begin buying as much local as possible.
    Thanks for sharing these resources!
    Bernice
    Assess your life for stress

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