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'Tis the Season for the Farmers Market

Check out 12 we scouted or find one close to you for local, organic food

How to explain the boom in U.S. farmers markets, with three times as many operating today as a decade and a half ago? A farmer might say it's the climate, with growing conditions just right.

See also: Seven tips for shopping farmers markets.

To improve health and fitness, Americans are turning to fresher, more nutritious foods. Alarmed by food contamination scares and concerned about pesticides and additives, we want to know more about where and how food is produced. And buffeted by the down economy, we shop even more carefully for high-quality, good-value foods, preferably close to home. Meanwhile, Americans who were farming (or wanted to) looked for new ways to make a living on the land. And civic leaders searched for business enterprises that would bring development, revenue and jobs to their communities.

Enter the farmers market, with the promise of those benefits and more. In 1994, the U.S. Department of Agriculture Farmers Market Directory — the USDA's official catalog of the nation's farmers markets — listed 1,755 of them. By 2010, that number had risen to 6,132. Old, historic markets branched out to new locations; new markets sprouted in communities large and small.

Rayne Pegg, administrator of the USDA's Agricultural Marketing Service, says the creation of markets where producers sell directly to consumers has spurred "astronomical growth in local and regional foods" and created even more opportunity for farmers, ranchers and other agricultural producers. At the same time, Pegg says, the markets are "bringing fresh, healthy food to neighborhoods across the country while also strengthening local economies and building local communities."

As farmers markets across the country opened for the summer 2011 season, we scouted 12 of the most appealing. Against a field of more than 6,100, our sampling is small and necessarily subjective. But the markets listed here are proven crowd-pleasers: They regularly make the "best of" lists compiled by food writers, sustainable-farming groups and travel blogs.

Next: How to find a farmers market in your area. >>

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.

Next: California farmers markets. >>


Davis Farmers Market

Even in a state that's known for its farm bounty (and boasts more than 700 farmers markets), this year-round market 80 mile east of San Francisco stands out. The pitched-roofed, open-air market pavilion, alongside the city's Central Park, lets visitors shop outdoors but under cover in all weather.

Ask longtime market manager Randii MacNear just how fresh and local the agricultural products are, and she'll explain that more than two-thirds of the 90 producers selling here live within an hour's drive. On Wednesdays in the summer, the market is open from late afternoon through mid-evening for Picnic in the Park, featuring concerts by local musicians and a global array of meals from surrounding restaurants.

Regulars at the Davis market go for the produce-laden popsicles — sweet potato, avocado, boysenberry — sold under the whimsical name Fat Face (logo: a pig slurping a Popsicle). On Saturdays, Fat Face founder Jaymes Luu also sells gourmet breakfast sandwiches made from fresh market goods.

Annual special events at the market include a Fall Festival showcasing seasonal specialties (try the pumpkin ice cream), and Pig Day, a celebration of all things porcine. Pig Day market-goers sample pork products, make pig-themed crafts and wear pig costumes (MacNear traditionally dresses as "Ms. Piggy"). There's also a piglet petting zoo, and a dance performance and flash-mob known as the Big Pig Jig.


Davis Farmers Market Pavilion in Central Park, 3rd & C Streets, Davis, CA 95616.

Saturdays: 8 a.m.-1 p.m., year-round, rain or shine

Wednesdays: April through October, 4:30-8:30 p.m.; November through March, 2-6 p.m.

A smaller, satellite market operates at the main entrance of Sutter Davis Hospital (2000 Sutter Pl.) on Thursdays 10 a.m.-2 p.m. from June 2 through September 29. 

Ferry Plaza Farmers Market, San Francisco

This farmers market's location on Embarcadero Way is a feast for the senses, with the historic Ferry Building and glittering San Francisco Bay as backdrops (and access by mass transit including ferry and cable car). The nonprofit that runs the market — CUESA, the Center for Urban Education about Sustainable Agriculture — encourages visitors to learn about "green" growing practices while they shop and graze. One fact that CUESA is particularly proud to share: "Food eaten in the U.S. travels an average of 1,500 miles from farm to plate, while food traveling to the Ferry Plaza Farmers Market travels an average of just 100 miles" — arriving at peak taste and nutritional value, and spending less fossil fuel along the way.

The day-long Saturday markets draw more than 120 vendors in the course of a year, with stalls lining the sidewalk in front of the Ferry Building and spilling into the plaza behind it. Saturdays feature popular Market to Table events where shoppers meet farmers and vendors, and learn about cooking in time with the seasons. On Tuesdays and Thursdays, four-hour-long midday markets (featuring about 30 vendors in sidewalk stalls) are a favorite spot for tourists and locals alike to grab lunch while shopping for dinner ingredients. 


Located at the Ferry Building, at the foot of Market Street on the bayside street called the Embarcadero.

Saturdays: 8 a.m.-2 p.m. year-round

Tuesdays and Thursdays, 10 a.m.-2 p.m. year-round.

Next: Colorado farmers markets. >>


Boulder County Farmers Market

In the mid-1980s in Colorado, "small-scale farms were dropping like flies," says onetime farmer Bob D'Alessandro. "So a group of Boulder County farmers got together and started a farmers market, in the hope that selling directly to the public would save the existing farmers and encourage more people to go into it. And that actually has happened!" In the process, the downtown Boulder Farmers Market has become a cherished resource in the community, and a destination for foodies from across the region and the nation.

"People really enjoy being able to buy food they know was picked fresh within the last day," says D'Allessandro, who now heads the nonprofit that runs the downtown market and a sister Longmont location. "And in an era when words like 'natural' have been taken over by the merchandisers, shoppers appreciate being able to talk about growing practices with the person who actually grew the food." Vendors at the market include multigenerational ranchers, organic produce farmers — and frankly countercultural food entrepreneurs. One example: Fans of the grape can buy from Augustina's Winery, which turns Colorado-grown grapes into vintages with names such as Boulder Backpacking Wine and WineChick White (tasting note: "A summer-sipping wine great when accompanied by a trashy novel.")  

After working at the market as a teen, Boulder native Justin Perkins returned there to launch a line of natural-ingredient, kettle-roasted nuts in spicy flavors such as mango chipotle and cinnamon cayenne. Now products from his Olomomo Nut Company (a name Perkins coined to mean "a state of bliss") sell at Colorado retailers and online, and have been featured on cable TV's Cooking Channel. "Boulder's really sort of the epicenter for the natural and organic foods movement in general," Perkins says. "We're lucky to be a part of that."


13th St. between Canyon and Arapahoe, Boulder, CO 80302

Saturdays: 8 a.m.-2 p.m., first Saturday in April through third Saturday in November

Wednesdays: 4-8 p.m., first Wednesday in May through first Wednesday in October

The same market association operates the Longmont Farmers Market at the Boulder County Fairgrounds, 9595 Nelson Road, Longmont, CO 80501; Saturdays 8 a.m-2 p.m. from the first Saturday in May through the last Saturday in October. 

Next: District of Columbia farmers markets. >>


FRESHFARM Market, Dupont Circle

"Promoting local food with a face, a place and a taste" — that's the slogan of FRESHFARM Markets, the nonprofit organization that runs producer-only farmers markets in Washington, D.C.'s eclectic Dupont Circle neighborhood and at 10 other locations in the region. Taken together, the markets give some 360,000 shoppers a year access to the fresh, local wares of 150 farmers from five states.

On Sundays at Dupont Circle, vendors' tents snake through a bank parking lot and a few cordoned-off city blocks. Products range from the traditional to the edgy-gourmet. From Cibola Farms of Culpeper, Va. — where livestock is raised without antibiotics or growth hormones — come free-range pork and bison meats including an addictive buffalo jerky. From Everona Dairy of Rapidan, Va., comes handcrafted artisanal cheeses made with milk from dairy owners' own sheep; their Swiss-style cheese called Shenandoah has won top honors at the United States Cheese Contest and the World Cheese Championship.

At the Twin Springs Fruit Farm stall, a plate of GoldRush apple samples emptied almost as quickly as it was refilled, as an employee of the Pennsylvania orchard explained how scientists crossed Golden Delicious with other species to produce the apple's deep-yellow shade and intense flavor. Across the market aisle, shoppers sniffed bars of detergent-free soap scented with essential oils and speckled with herbs and flower petals, made at Harmony Creek Farm in Bealeton, Va.

The FRESHFARM markets in Dupont Circle and in Silver Spring, Md., operate year-round. For shorter seasons on different days, FRESHFARM operates smaller markets throughout Virginia, Maryland and the District (see schedules and locations at In 2009 when a new market was established near the White House, "First lady Michelle Obama attended the opening, and I got to thank her for making healthy eating a national priority," says FRESHFARM co-director Bernadine Prince. New this year at the White House location: a concession called Red Zebra, making upscale pizzas with local market ingredients and baking them on-site in a mobile wood-fired oven.


20th Street, NW between Connecticut and Massachusetts Avenues NW, Washington, D.C.

Sundays year-round, 8:30 a.m.-1 p.m.

Markets operate on different days and seasonal schedules at five other locations in the District, four locations in Maryland and one in Virginia; details are at

Next: Illinois farmers market. >>


Green City Market, Chicago

In 1998, nine local farmers gathered to sell their produce in a crosswalk near the Chicago Theatre. Today, dozens of farmers and producers make Green City Market the thriving enterprise that acclaimed chef Alice Waters has called "the best sustainable market in the country."

To sell at Green City, farmers must meet the market's standards for sustainable practices, such as reducing or eliminating the use of pesticides and treating animals humanely. Prepared food vendors must be local, small-scale "food artisans," and are expected to obtain their signature ingredients from Green City farmers whenever possible. Case in point: When Chicago confectioner Flora Lazar makes the French-classic sweets she sells at the market, she uses honey from Michigan beekeepers and fruits from Michigan and Indiana farmers — all of them Green City vendors.

One of Lazar's suppliers is Peter Klein of Seedling Enterprises in South Haven, Mich. Klein was a Chicago wage slave and avid farmers market shopper "until one day, my favorite fruit vendors told me they were retiring," he recalls. After months of thinking "No way, that's crazy," Klein quit his job and bought the 81-acre orchard and farm. In the seven years since, he has expanded his farmers market product lines to include hard cider, sorbets and custom-blended smoothies as well as fresh tree fruits and berries.

Among his own favorites at Green City: "Growing Power sunflower sprouts — world's best snack! Nordic Creamery butter — the first time my kids tasted it, they vowed never to eat any other butter again. Genesis Farm carrots — bigger, tastier and more colorful. And Nichols Farm Italian garlic — what all the other garlics wish they were!"

For the summer season (early May through late October), the rain-or-shine market is held two mornings a week outdoors, in Lincoln Park near the shore of Lake Michigan. For two weeks in September, the market sponsors a Locavore Challenge that includes chefs preparing dishes from "mystery baskets" of local food ingredients, and area restaurants offering special prix fixe locavore menus. For the winter season, the market moves a few blocks north on the lakefront to the Peggy Notebaert Nature Museum, opening on select Saturdays in a heated tent on the grounds in November and December, then inside the museum January through April.  


At the south end of Lincoln Park between Clark and Stockton Drive (about 1790 N. Clark St., Chicago IL 60614)

Wednesdays and Saturdays: 7 a.m.-1 pm. May 4 through October 29.

Check the website for the Saturdays November-April when the market location is the Peggy Notebaert Nature Museum, 2430 N. Cannon Dr. in Lincoln Park.

Next: Iowa farmers markets. >>


Downtown Des Moines Farmers Market

Sure, there are places here to buy corn: corn on the cob, popcorn, corn bread and even sweet corn ice cream. But the 200-plus vendors at this market in the heart of farm country sell an enormous variety of local wares beyond the state's signature ears.

At vendor stalls spread among nine city blocks, the market averages 18,000 visitors on Saturdays from May through October. It's a friendly scene, with musicians playing casual concerts, educational programs for kids and a "bike valet" that not only secures shoppers' bicycles but also will check the tires. Two years ago, the market launched a Meals from the Market program that takes shoppers' and vendors' fresh food donations and distributes them to local programs serving Des Moines' hungry and homeless. 

Locals' love of this market is typified by Betsy Rubiner, whose plans for the season's opening were as follows: "I'm going to the market on Saturday unless there's a tornado." An author and travel writer who has shopped farmers markets around the country, Rubiner considers Des Moines' market "one of the best things about living here."

Among Rubiner's favorite vendors at the market are Orale! Salsa ("My go-to salsa lady! We like the HOT kind."), Koch Woodworking ("Terrific rough-hewn wood plates and bowls made from various trees found in Iowa."), Williams and Sons Orchard ("I buy big boxes of Jonathan apples in the fall from these folks to make applesauce, which I freeze for the winter."), and South Union Bakery ("Great bread including the world's best ciabatta anywhere — trust me."). Last but not least, she recommends Westrum Produce: "Big farm family, nice people, always dependable for the latest in-season produce."


Saturdays: 7 a.m.-noon, May 7-October 29, at the Historic Court Avenue District, on Court Avenue between First and Fifth Streets

Wednesday market: 11 a.m.-2 p.m., August 31-October 5, outdoors on Thirteenth Street between Grand and Locust

Winter markets: Fridays November 18 to December 16, 11 a.m.-2 p.m.; and Saturdays November 19 and December 17, 9 a.m.-1 p.m., indoors and outdoors at 400 Locust St., Downtown Des Moines

Next: New Mexico farmers markets.>>


Santa Fe Farmers Market

Praised by the foodie website as "ultra-local," this farmers market is proud to enforce some of the toughest vendor restrictions in the nation. It only admits agricultural producers from 15 counties of Northern New Mexico. And the vendors who bring baked goods, processed foods and crafts to market must derive 80 percent of their ingredients from those 15 counties as well. The result: Products that are supremely fresh and richly evocative of the region.

Established in the late 1960s, the market has grown to include more than 100 growers and vendors offering hundreds of different products. Even in the winter months, the offerings are surprisingly bountiful, as more local farmers use extended growing techniques to increase and prolong their output. The market, located in the Santa Fe Railyard, has become so popular that community members donated most of the funds to build it a permanent home, with a 9,000-square-foot pavilion for special events.

Willa Shalit, an artist and entrepreneur who has lived in Sante Fe part time since 1988, calls the market "fabulous!   The cowboys meet the high brows meet the Native Americans … You can find hand-raised yak meat and buffalo along with organic beef and chicken, and New Mexican fare ranging from heirloom vegetables and fruits to ginger raspberry jam and all kinds of honey: high mountain acacia, thistle, sage. Soaps and essential oils are sold year round, as well as hand-raised, hand-spun, hand-dyed wool."

On a typical market day, "the 'farmers' are as colorful as the foods," Shalit says. "There's the 10-year-old violin virtuoso, wearing a vest made of old ties and playing folk music ... and the octogenarian 'Lavender Lady' adorned in purple, selling her lacy aromatic sachets." In the fall, Shalit says, "the aroma of New Mexico's famed green chiles roasting in traditional, turning steel barrels is intoxicating."


At the Santa Fe Railyard, 1607 Paseo de Peralta, Santa Fe, NM 87501

Saturdays: 8 a.m.-1 p.m. year-round

Tuesdays: 8 a.m.-1 p.m. May-November

Thursdays: 3-7 p.m., June-October

A satellite market also operates 3-6:30 p.m. on Thursdays June-September at the San Ysidro Plaza, at Zafarano Drive and Cerrillos Road.

Next: New York farmers markets. >>


City of Rochester Public Market

How much do people in Rochester love their city market? Enough to vote it into the top spot in the 2010 America's Favorite Farmers Market contest, sponsored by the farm conservation group American Farmland Trust.

The city has run a market at the current site since 1905 (and for more than 75 years before that at other locations). Through the early 1950s, the market was the main distribution hub for area grocery stores, so today food wholesalers still are found amidst the farmers, says market director Jim Farr. But as the market grants new leases, "it's always western New York farmers first," he says, followed by other fresh food producers, then arts-and-crafts and general merchandise vendors and prepared-food concessions. The resulting scene, on the three days of the week that the farmers market is open: people of all ages and diverse racial, ethnic and economic backgrounds, shopping a huge range of merchandise. "At one point we identified 29 different languages being spoken here as native tongues on Saturday morning," Farr says.

Because the market's peak-season popularity can cause traffic snarls, the city operates a tram to nearby parking facilities, and a "veggie valet" where customers can leave purchases and drive through after shopping to pick them up. In the winter, Farr says, "it's kind of a tradition" for hardcore vendors and customers to keep coming, to outdoor stalls fitted with kerosene heaters and tents. The only time in the past 16 years that the Saturday market closed, he says, was once in 1999 when 43 inches of snow fell the night before. But when the wind chill hits minus 20 degrees, Farr says the market does take extra measures: It lets vendors sell for free.


280 North Union Street, Rochester, NY 14609

Saturdays, 5 a.m.- 3 p.m. year-round; Tuesdays and Thursdays, 6 a.m.-1 p.m. year-round. For schedules of additional hours before and after holidays and for special events, see the market's online events listing. 

Union Square Greenmarket, New York

In 1976, a handful of farmers established a market in Union Square Park, so named because it sits at the union of major Manhattan thoroughfares. Today, the Union Square Greenmarket's location — over a subway station and banked by neighborhoods such as Chelsea and Greenwich Village — helps it draw as many as 60,000 shoppers on busy days.

In peak season, some 140 food producers are here selling their wares: fresh fruits and vegetables, heritage meats and farmstead cheeses, artisan breads, plants and cut flowers, wines, preserves and more. Regular market customers include a long list of New York chefs, culinary instructors and cookbook authors.

At Union Square, both vendors and shoppers come from so many different national and ethnic backgrounds that a favorite "hometown" ingredient for one grazer will be an exotic new taste treat for another. Veteran chef Richard Ruben, author of The Farmers Market Cookbook, likes to challenge shoppers: "If your family is from a certain culture, make sure you don't buy just from your own family pantry. So, if you're accustomed to buying spinach, instead maybe buy mustard greens, or bok choy from a Korean farmer."

Another Ruben favorite is Oak Grove Plantation, a New Jersey farm he says "probably has the best tomatoes and peppers in the market." According to Oak Grove's website, the farm grows 69 kinds of heirloom tomatoes and 334 kinds of hot and sweet peppers — enough variety to amaze even jaded shoppers. "That's the pleasure of the market," Ruben says: "Finding something new."


Union Square West and 17th Street, New York, N.Y.

Mondays, Wednesdays, Fridays and Saturdays year-round: 8 a.m.–6 p.m.

Next: Oregon farmers market. >>


Portland Farmers Market

In its 2011 guide to the city's farmers markets, Portland Monthly magazine described them as "our most rambunctious collisions of flavor, people, and place, and as synonymous with our city as fir trees, bridges, and rainy winters." Among the local market groups that the magazine hailed was Portland Farmers Market (PFM): "As the organization begins its 20th season, PFM's six locations define the local farmers market experience, and its Saturday flagship market at Portland State University showcases the city at its most bountiful."

The Saturday markets on a green swath of campus draw more than 180 vendors, including 22 who've sold there every year since the market opened two decades ago. The operation repeatedly has been ranked as one of the top farmers markets in the country by publications including Travel + Leisure and The Huffington Post.  

Portland resident Cynthia Morgan, an artist and online manager who has shopped farmers' markets across the country, considers Portland's "definitely among the best. The people here preach whatever food they produce with a missionary zeal: Don't ever say, 'Well, I don't really like honey all that much' to the 'bee guy' unless you want to spend the next hour tasting different honeys!" Some of Morgan's favorite summer market treats are Italian artichokes, lemon cucumbers and, especially, the "these little dark-purple cherry tomatoes with so much concentrated sweet tomato flavor it's almost like eating candy."

The market is open 10 months a year (closed in January and February). In any season, one of Morgan's favorite vendors is Highland Oak Farm, which sells "the most wonderful steak jerky you've ever tasted! I sent that stuff to relatives in the military in Afghanistan and it became prime trading currency for everything from beer to rare office equipment."  Portland Monthly's recommended stops at the market include Choi's Kimchi, which sells five varieties of the hot-and-pickled vegetable delicacy; and Lauretta Jean's bakery, for a slice of the signature apple pie. 



SW Park Avenue and SW Montgomery Street, Portland, OR 97201

Saturdays: 8:30 a.m.-2 p.m. from March through October, 9 a.m.-2 p.m. in November and December.

See Portland Farmers Market's website for information on its five other locations.

Next: Texas farmers markets. >>


SFC Farmers Markets, Austin

The sense that farmers markets forge bonds — bringing people closer to nature, to their food and to their neighbors — is nowhere more evident than in Austin, at markets run by the nonprofit Sustainable Food Center. How close, exactly? So close that when baker Jean Brooks posted on Facebook, "Max has done it!" her market-going friends rejoiced with her. ("For those who don't know," Brooks explained, "Max is our dwarf peach tree" — and Max's achievement was providing fruit for the cinnamon peach pies Brooks would bake for the next market day.)

SFC runs year-round, rain-or-shine markets at three locations, including its original market in downtown's historic Republic Square Park. With more than 110 vendors participating, it is the largest certified growers-only farmers market in Texas. Market programs literally cater to visitors coming and going: Arriving shoppers can drop their household food wastes into the market's compost bin, while departing shoppers can take home unlimited clean, filtered water in special blue "Fill 'er Up at the Market" bottles.

As befits a town with the tongue-in-cheek motto "Keep Austin Weird," the markets sell offbeat items — aquaculture-grown seaweed, feral hog meat — as well as traditional farm fare.  Consultant Brigid Shea, a onetime Austin City Council member, credits SFC and its markets with fueling "an explosion of creativity around local and organic food. The amount of fabulous and unique kinds of foods that are coming out of Austin is just flat-out astonishing. There's not enough time in the day to sample it all."

Visitors can be forgiven for trying. For produce, Shea's favorite stops at the market include Johnson's Backyard Farm: "phenomenal, sweet carrots, and these beautiful beets that when you slice them, the inside is a swirl of purple and garnet and white." She urges early shoppers to head to Tacodeli for breakfast tacos with Salsa Doña, a "to-die-for" creamy sauce made from a house-secret recipe. Other vendors singled out by market aficionados: Thunderheart Bison, whose free-range bison meat won a gold-medal award in the Gallo Family Vineyards' artisanal food competition; and Cocoa Puro Kakawa Chocolates, whose chocolate-covered cocoa beans have made Saveur magazine's Top 100 Foods List.

512-236-0074 ext 101

Downtown: 4th and Guadalupe streets, Saturdays: 9 a. m.-1 p.m. year-round

Sunset Valley: 3200 Jones Road, at the Toney Burger Center sports facility, Saturdays: 9 a.m.-1 p.m. year-round

The Triangle: 46th and Lamar streets, Wednesdays: 4-8 p.m. year-round

Next: Wisconsin farmers market. >>


Dane County Farmers Market, Madison

When locals say "the Square," they mean the grounds around the State Capitol building in downtown Madison. Every Saturday from mid-April through early November, some 160 vendors set up shop around the Square for the nation's largest producers-only farmers market — that is, a market where every product sold is produced by the people selling it. Everything sold also must be grown or made in Wisconsin: "Even though Illinois is just 59 miles away, they can't come in," says market manager Larry Johnson, because the 35-year-old market proudly offers only home-state delicacies.

"We have bakers, we have fresh vegetables, fresh fruits, honey, all different kinds of meat," says Johnson. And of course, this being Wisconsin, a dizzying array of dairy: "The cheese is world-class and everybody has a specialty." While farmers pack the Capitol grounds, an adjacent lot is dedicated to arts and crafts vendors and concession stands, and a changing cast of street musicians perform along the streets bounding the Square.   

A smaller market operates near the city government center on Wednesday mornings in the summer market season — and even through formidable Wisconsin winters, the market carries on at alternate locations. A treasured tradition is the Winter Market Breakfast, a full meal made strictly from farmers' market products and offered first-come-first-served for the bargain price of $7 from 8:30 to 11 a.m. (or until the food runs out).

"We love the market and try to go as many Saturdays as possible," says Keith Symonds, an avid home chef and host of the "Beerpocalypse Now!" beer tasting program on Madison local access TV. Symonds' hints for prowling the Square like a regular: "The 'serious' locals arrive between 8 and 9 a.m. and after that come the tourists so you can run into gridlock if you are actually trying to shop." Stop in early at Stella's Bakery, which will sell hundreds of loaves of its signature Hot & Spicy Cheese Bread on a good market day. And when strolling at any hour, Symonds says, remember: "Foot traffic around the Capitol is always counter-clockwise, and newbies who try to walk against traffic will be gently advised to go the other way — honest!"

Summer Saturdays: Capitol Square, 6 a.m. to 2 p.m. April 16-Nov. 5, 2011

Summer Wednesdays:  8:30 a.m. to 2 p.m. April 20-Nov. 2, 2011, 200 block of Martin Luther King Jr. Blvd.

Early Winter Saturdays: 7:30 a.m. to noon Nov. 12-Dec. 17, 2011, MononaTerrace Community and Convention Center (One John Nolen Dr.).

Late Winter Saturdays: 8:00 a.m. to noon, January to mid-April, 2012, Madison Senior Center (330 W. Mifflin St.).

Next: Back to introduction. >>