Farmers Markets are more popular than ever. From large city markets that stretch on for multiple blocks to small town operations with a few tents in the city hall parking lot, you can find farmers markets nearly everywhere.
We all know that farmers markets are a great way to stock up on local produce, but did you also know that they are a perfect addition to your travel itinerary?
Farmers markets are so much more than fresh fruits and veggies. Some have live entertainment, handmade crafts, fresh baked goods, and even delicious prepared foods. Visiting a farmers market while you travel can be a fun way to join in on the local fun.
Finding farmers markets
The biggest challenge when it comes to visiting farmers markets in an unfamiliar area is finding them! Here are a few tips for seeking out those local markets all over the country.
Ask at the campground or RV park
If you’re staying at a campground, start there. Ask the front desk staff, browse through the brochures in the office, and check out the bulletin board papered with flyers. For instance, just this week I learned about a fantastic mid-week farmers market while perusing the flyers in the laundry room at the RV park where I’m staying.
Try the local chamber of commerce
Most towns have a local chamber of commerce or visitor center. Some are staffed with knowledgable employees while others are self-serve buildings full of brochures of maps. In either case, this is a great place to learn about local events—including farmers markets.
Aside from the obvious method of simply typing “Farmers Markets” and the name of the town you’re visiting into Google, there are a number of fantastic online resources to help you find local markets.
- USDA Local Food Directories: This is by the most complete online listing of farmers markets found on the web. You can search the directory by location, products offered, and type of payments accepted. Provides basic information about the market location and a direct link to the corresponding website.
- Local Farm markets.org: A handy resource for finding farmers markets and farm stands. Includes information on location, times and dates, whether the farm carries organic products, and even an overview of the goodies you’ll find there.
- Organic.org: While the site is primarily a resource for finding and learning about organic products, it also offers an extensive listing of farmers markets around the country (both organic and conventional). The listings provide basic information about the times, dates and location of the markets along with a link to the market website.
- Farmstand App: This mobile app is perfect for finding farmers markets on the go. Search for markets based on your current location and then click on the map for instant directions. You can also view basic information about the market, browse or add photos, and even add new markets that the app might be missing.
Tips for shopping at farmers markets
Scout out the location
You know the address, but do you know where to park, or what the best way is to get there? If this information is not available on the farmers market website, take a look at Google Maps ahead of time so you can determine the parking situation, or whether you can you walk there, ride your bike, or take public transportation.
Arrive early for the best selection. High demand items like berries, corn, and fresh greens go quickly. If you can, avoid peak market hours as it can be tough to navigate the crowds.
Get a schedule
Many markets offer live music or rotating booths throughout the season. If there’s a particular vendor or musical performance you don’t want to miss, this is the best way to make sure you’re there.
Walk it first
I’ve been known to get suckered into buying the first bright red tomato I see, only to find better or cheaper ones a few booths down. Take your time and survey all the options to see what produce looks best before buying.
Everything looks good at a farmers market. Vegetables at their peak of freshness, baked goods wafting with tantalizing smells, and those giants bouquets of flowers are practically begging for you to take them home.
Sample the goods
Take advantage of samples to try something new or to gauge flavor, sweetness, and texture. Don’t see samples? Just ask—most vendors will happily oblige.
Try something new
Farmers markets offer the perfect opportunity to explore a whole different assortment of produce than you might typically see at the grocery store.
Use this an excuse to step away from your usual favorites and try something new. If you’re not sure where to start or how to prepare a new vegetable, don’t be afraid to ask the farmer for advice.
A farmers market recipe
Is there anything more inspiring than a farmers market at the height of the summer, piled high with heirloom tomatoes, striped zucchini, and bi-color corn as far as the eye can see? Wouldn’t you like to take all those scrumptious flavors and combine them into one amazing dish?
Here’s a recipe perfect for using all the ripe tomatoes, zucchini, and corn that the markets are bursting with in the summer months. Bonus points if you can find local bacon and goat cheese at the market as well 🙂
Zucchini Bites with Grilled Corn and Fresh Tomatoes
- 3 medium zucchini
- 2 ears of corn
- 1 large tomato
- 6 slices bacon
- 4 ounces goat cheese
- 1 tablespoon olive oil
- Salt and pepper
- Preheat the oven to 350 degrees. Line a baking sheet with parchment paper or tinfoil.
- Cook the bacon and set aside to cool. Crumble into small pieces when it’s cool enough to handle.
- Brush the corn with olive oil and cook over a hot grill for 15 minutes, rotating often. Remove the corn from the grill and cut the kernels from the cob. *Alternately, you could steam the corn, but you will miss out on that smokey, grilled flavor.
- Cut the tomato and toss it in a bowl with the corn. Season to taste with salt and pepper.
- Cut the zucchini into half-inch rounds. Line them up on the prepared baking sheet and brush with olive oil.
- Pile the zucchini with the tomato corn mixture, followed by the crumbled bacon and top with a small amount of goat cheese. Don’t worry if things get a little messy!
- Bake in the oven for 25 minutes or until the zucchini is tender. Enjoy!