Magazine article Sunset

Our Favorite Farmers' Markets

Magazine article Sunset

Our Favorite Farmers' Markets

Article excerpt

In greater numbers than ever, growers are offering the freshest foods in the West

With brilliant colors, intense flavors, and distinctive textures, foods from farmers' markets tempt and delight. They can inspire a lively party too. Visit your favorite market (or discover one of ours: the list begins on page 110) and load up with red greens, yellow tomatoes, and purple peppers to throw a fresh-produce party in your backyard.

From Santa Fe to San Francisco to Boulder, farmers' markets bring produce directly to consumers. Shoppers get vine-ripened fruit, vegetables picked that morning, and heirloom varieties-all treasures hard to find in supermarkets that depend on shipped produce.

Under the tent of her favorite vegetable staff at the Westwood Village Farmers' Market in Los Angeles, my friend Nicole picks up a basketball-size head of leaf lettuce, a bunch of leeks, and a bouquet of sorrel. "I shop here every week," she tells me. "They have good, healthy food; it's what I eat." At the flower stand, she chats with the grower like an old friend. He has saved her a spray of her favorite lilies. This is direct marketing at its best, a farmer and customer who know and support each other.

Like Nicole, many Westerners are hooked on farmers' markets. According to USDA agricultural marketing specialist Denny Johnson, there are more than 520 across the West, an increase of 41 percent since 1994. The markets operate on the general principle of offering fresh food that has been grown or produced by the people selling it (rules vary about the proximity of vendors to markets). The end product is apparently what customers want-just-picked, vine-ripened, often organic produce and good-quality specialty foods such as breads, pastries, seafood, and sausages from small purveyors. Communities win too: Such markets have energized many otherwise untracked downtowns. …

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