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:
- LocalHarvest’s “Find a Farmers’ Market” search function, or
- The USDA’s “Farmers Market Search” service.
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.