Throughout the last couple of decades, one of the great joys of summer has been the explosion of farmers’ markets in urban areas. And if you’re a traveler, I’d strongly recommend you seek them out while on the road. Just as it’s great fun to visit markets (and even supermarkets) when traveling overseas, so, too, can a visitor to cities as disparate as Los Angeles and St. Paul, Minn., find markets where regional farmers ply the freshest of products
While in Washington, D.C., last week, I arrived before 7:30 a.m. in order to be fourth in line at a weekly farmers' market in the Clarendon neighborhood of nearby suburban Virginia. (DC’s giant Eastern Market on Capitol Hill suffered a fire, but it’s expected to reopen sometime next month.) By eight, the line for raspberries, strawberries, and blackberries stretched a city block in Clarendon. And an ominous sign at one booth warned that this would be the last weekend for strawberries.
Fortunately, I live in St. Paul, Minn., half a block from one of the great farmers’ market in the Midwest, The St. Paul Farmers’ Market (pictured). And because the season arrives later here, I may be able to score strawberries for another two weeks. Unlike some markets, the St. Paul vendors can only sell products that are produced within a 150-mile radius of the Twin Cities. So there’s honey from nearby Wisconsin, rhubarb and melons harvested by Hmong farmers outside Minneapolis, and lilies from suburban greenhouses. Coming up in a couple of weeks: local corn.
If I ever move to Los Angeles, it will be so I can shop every Saturday at the Santa Monica Farmers Market, where the cornucopia of fresh fruits and vegetables from the Central Valley are on offer in a way that makes you want to tie on the feedbag right on the spot. Except for the Pike Place Market in downtown Seattle, I’ve never seen such luscious berries, fat tomatoes, and tender asparagus.
So how do you find farmers’ markets in the US? As usual, the Internet is here to help. Local Harvest is a great place to begin with its alphabetical listing of towns and cities that boast markets across the US. Although the list isn’t definitive (the Clarendon market isn’t listed, for example), it’s a fairly comprehensive directory with hours of operation and a description of what’s on offer. And if a market has a web site, that’s listed, too.