Most farmers markets on this list are producers-only markets — that is, markets where every product sold is produced by the people selling it. Others host a mix of local producers and non-producing vendors. All take pride in showcasing what's fresh, local and distinctive to their area. And at each market, what fans say they like best isn't just one place or one purchase but the whole, rich experience.
"People who visit say to me, ‘I just had the most wonderful time,'" says Randii MacNear, longtime manager of the Davis, Calif., Farmers Market. "They say, ‘I ate good food, and I met the farmers that grow it; I was outside, I visited with people, I laughed…' People feel hopeful when they come to the market, that there's hope that the world will embrace good things."
To taste America at its freshest, tour any of the farmers markets profiled here. If none is nearby, browse for locations in your vicinity using this map of farmers markets operating in all 50 states. To pinpoint markets and get more information on each, use this USDA search tool that sorts markets by state, county and ZIP code. (For road warriors, there's even a downloadable spreadsheet of the geographic coordinates of farmers market locations throughout the United States.) The search tool also identifies which markets take credit and debit cards, and which participate in the Senior Farmers Market Nutrition Program (SFMNP), a federal program that gives low-income seniors vouchers to exchange for fresh produce at farmers markets. (To learn if you're eligible for SFMNP vouchers, contact the agency in your state that administers the program.)
If your tasting tour turns up a farmers market that we missed but you love, let your fellow shoppers know. From June 1 until midnight Aug. 31, 2011, you can cast votes for your favorites in the America's Favorite Farmers MarketsTM contest run by the American Farmland Trust conservation organization.