A dog licked ice cream off a baby’s face. An older man and a young woman were jamming on guitar and banjo, and a few kids danced around them on the sidewalk. The aroma of sizzling veggies on the grill mingled with the sweet smell of baking crepes. A sample of homemade kombucha tea played tangy notes in my mouth. I walked home from my local farmer’s market yesterday with a bundle of heirloom tomato plants snug in my backpack and a smile for the sensory snapshots I carried away.
You may be in the habit of visiting your local farmer’s market at home and stocking your fridge with homegrown delights, but how about when you are on the road? A trip to the local farmer’s market is an intimate way to step into the local community.
I love the way that visiting the farmer’s market can plug me into the local culture. It’s a fantastic opportunity to meet and chat with others and see a community come to life. Young and old, rich and poor – you’ll get a great feel for who inhabits the neighborhood and have the chance to live as one of them for the day.
While you’re at it, take some time to explore the fruits and veggies that are specific to the region. Most vendors are happy to offer you a sample of their freshest and tell you about the farm or garden it’s come from. This is your chance to fill your rucksack with whatever is fresh and specific to the region…find a loaf of bread and a hunk of artisan cheese or local honey, and you’ve got the fixings for a killer picnic.
Farmer’s markets are also prime shopping for locally-made handicrafts. Often you can buy directly from the artist and you can bet you’ll be getting a one-of-a-kind item. My favorite gifts to bring home to family and friends when I travel are these kind of things – hand made items that are completely unique to the region. If you can meet the artist and can re-tell a bit of their story back home, all the better!
There are several websites to help you find local farmer’s markets at your next vacation destination, including Local Harvest, FarmersMarket.com, the Eat Well Guide and, for jaunts over the border, Farmer’s Markets Canada.
You can also try searching by the state or region you’ll be visiting, and you may find more detailed sites that include info about special market tastings, farm profiles, local events and more, such as Seattleites’ site Puget Sound Fresh.
For markets outside of North America, you will have to go the old fashioned route and ask a local! (Or if anyone knows of international farmer’s market guides, please leave a comment!)
Don’t forget to bring your own bag!