There’s something about fall that beckons me — and everyone else, really — to spend time outside. Whether I’m picking apples, choosing the perfect pumpkin from a patch or hiking through forests to see its changing colors, the season is perfect for outdoor activities.
This year, I suggest you add another must-do to your fall bucket list: visiting a farmer’s market. There are so many reasons I love to go, but, most importantly, I can find the area’s freshest produce brought to me by the local people who harvest it. In other words, I always get tasty ingredients for my cooking while funneling money back into the local economy — it’s one of the best win-win situations I can think of.
Most cities and towns have their own farmer’s markets where you can go to pick up the fruits and vegetables that are in-season, but there are some that are simply a cut above the rest. I’ve found five of the nation’s best farmer’s markets, and I’m going to share why they’re so special, here:
There’s a reason why you see so many paparazzi shots of celebrities browsing the Farmer’s Market in Los Angeles: it is a sprawling offering of fresh produce, prepared foods and other products made by local farmers and artisans.
On top of that, it is said to be the nation’s oldest Farmer’s Market, since it has been taking place in the same spot since 1934, when a handful of farmers parked their trucks on a patch of L.A. dirt and started selling. History and quality products and potential celeb sightings? Sign me up.
Making your way to Charleston, South Carolina, is worth the trip for more reasons than just the Farmer’s Market. The city is the jewel in the crown of the old South, and there’s so much beauty to be seen in the city’s architecture; its food scene isn’t too shabby either, with more than 30 restaurants on its must-eat list.
Once you’re there, make a point to see the city’s Farmer’s Market, which is open between April and December each year. You can grab a bag of sweet Southern pecans or a fresh batch of shrimp. The traditional selection of produce is also flanked by grass-fed beef, freshly cut flowers and artisan ice cream, in case southeastern temperatures don’t reflect the fact that it is, indeed fall.
Take your Farmer’s Market trek a little bit further south from Charleston and you’ll find the Red Stick Farmer’s Market in Baton Rouge, Louisiana. Ranked as one of the area’s top five farmer’s markets, this one brings the best of the Bayou State’s seafood, produce, dairy and meat.
Another special for-sale item at Red Stick is its baked goods. There’s nothing quite like a sweet, southern pie for dessert — at least, in my opinion — so load up on the apple, pumpkin and sweet potato pies that go perfectly with fall weather and flavors. You can also grab a loaf of fresh bread to go with all of your hearty fall soups and chilis.
Head to Boston in fall for a one-two punch of history and tasty Farmer’s Market treats. The city is the birthplace of our nation’s independence, and it’s also a short drive from Salem, where witches went on trial hundreds of years ago. As such, it’s the perfect destination during the creepy month of October.
Once you’re there, be sure to visit Boston’s Farmer’s Market in Copley Square. It closes at the end of November, just in time for the city to hole up and hibernate through those intense northeastern winters.
All Farmer’s Markets connect people with local produce, but the St. Paul’s Farmer’s Market takes it one step further by requiring that all merchants come from within a 50-mile radius of the city. The Midwestern neighborly spirit is alive and well at this market, too, as farmer’s are open to chatting with customers about their products and what’s tastiest at certain times of year.
As you peruse the fresh fruits and veggies, you can have a nibble on the prepared foods offered at the market, too. You’ll find a diverse spread of snacks, from Vietnamese spring rolls to bagel sandwiches and everything in between.
This is Only the Beginning
Although I love visiting farmer’s markets to get an idea of the local agricultural and culinary scene, I haven’t visited nearly enough of our country’s best. As such, this list is just a jumping off point for you and me.
This fall season, then, take a pledge with me to see as many farmer’s markets as you can before winter creeps in and causes many markets to close their doors until spring rolls back around. You’ll find the produce is fresher, the vendors are nicer and everything you cook tastes even better because it was grown and made locally. For me, that’s more than enough incentive to embark on my farmer’s market quest, and I hope that you will take the produce plunge with me.