We all do it, every other week; maybe less if we can get away with it, maybe more often if we have the means. I am talking about grocery shopping. We all go to the local store or corner market for milk, fruits, vegetables, cereal, orange juice, jelly, cheese and even some chicken or steak to throw on the grill now and again. Some of us like to grab the healthy things, some of us don’t mind some junk food and snacks in the carts at check out. For those searching for higher quality produce, why not go somewhere slightly different: the farmers market.
Getting food from a farmer isn’t a new idea. It started years ago, when everyone had a small farm and grew food for themselves. These people transitioned into bringing their wares to sell at a central gathering point. Nowadays it seems to be more of a novelty to venture out to a market and frequent the fresh food stands, but chefs (at least the good ones) have been doing it for years, usually on a daily basis, to get the freshest produce to prepare for their customers. More and more restaurants now list the nearby wholesalers on their menus or in their restaurants, allowing customers to see first hand how much support is given to local purveyors. Farmers markets are the best way to get fresh produce that is typically grown organically and is always super healthy, not to mention, trips to your local farmer's market are usually cheaper than visiting a supermarket where they mark up the prices to cover all of their over-head and make a profit. But, what makes farmers markets truly special (in my opinion) is that the person selling the produce is the same person who raised the crops from start to finish, and that person can provide reliable information about the food you will be eating. Also, supporting local farmers helps sustain not only the agricultural world, but the economy as a whole.
Large-scale farmers markets are found in all of the major cities, and smaller, more hyper-local gathering grounds can usually be found peppering city limits. Here are some or the more well-known markets in large cities across the country.
Philadelphia: The “City of Brotherly Love”, Rocky, the cheese steak and of the Reading Terminal Market. This building has housed over 80 different purveyors of fruits, vegetables, meats, cheeses, Amish goods and other sellable wares in the east coast hub for 120 years now. This daily market attracts 100,000 people through its doors. It is open from 8:00 a.m. to 6:00 p.m. Monday through Saturday and from 9:00 a.m. to 5:00 p.m. on Sunday.
Dallas: A metropolis with 6.5 million people living in or around the area between it and Fort Worth. The Cowboys and Mavericks are large draws sports wise, but there is a large amount of farmers bringing their goods to this central hub downtown. At the Dallas Farmers Market, cultivators have been congregating since the late 1800’s, but it was officially formalized in 1941 with buildings constructed specifically for the vendors. It is open daily for anyone and everyone to come in and try what the area has to offer.
San Francisco: Not just full of hippies and Apple-junkies; it’s full of great food. Many of the local chefs utilize the surrounding farms to create amazing meals for the closely surrounding public. In order to do this, the cooks head to the produce markets. There are over ten different farmers markets in San Francisco in various parts of the city, but the largest is the Ferry Building Marketplace. It’s open three days a week (Tuesday, Thursday 10:00 a.m. to 2:00 p.m. and Saturday from 8:00 a.m. to 2:00 p.m.) with the weekend session being its largest. About 25,000 people a week make the trek to the waterfront seeking the freshest ingredients for a favorite dish, family dinner or weekly buying of items for upcoming feasts.
Los Angeles: Host to a plethora of smaller farmers markets, much like rest of the cities, but the largest is aptly named the Los Angeles Farmers Market located on Gilmore Island. It opened its stalls in 1934 and to this day nearly three million shoppers swarm this Southern California destination point. During the Rose Bowl festivities, over 80 bus loads of people a day stop by the fresh food venue. It has well over 85 different makers of meats, cheese, and produce and is open from 9:00 a.m. to 9:00 p.m. Monday through Saturday and 10:00 a.m. to 9:00 p.m. on Sunday.
San Diego: Boasting the countries best weather in terms of sunny days and mild temperatures. This also helps farmers to grow things at any time of the year. That being said, almost any day of the week, you can find a collective cornucopia of locally sourced farmers markets in various neighborhoods of “America’s Finest City.” Two of the largest are located in Little Italy (Saturday from 8:00 a.m. to 2:00 p.m.) and the Hillcrest (Sunday 9:00 a.m. to 2:00 p.m.) Both have been around for over 10 years now with thousands of visitors partaking in the produce and meats on a weekly basis. Ocean Beach (Wednesday from 4:00 p.m. to 8:00 p.m.), North Park (Thursday from 3:00 p.m. to 7:00 p.m.) and City Heights (Saturday 9:00 a.m. to 1:00 p.m.) all have smaller markets, so finding fresh goods in every part of the city is easier than ever.
Instead of going to the super huge food stores, take your grocery list and make a stop at your local farmers market, where you can probably get everything on that list anyway. Most of them are outside so you can enjoy the sun. Farmers markets have never gone away, but their popularity is definitely on its way back.
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