We’re in the midst of National Farmers’ Market Week so we’ve updated our Farmers’ Markets Guide. New markets, new tips, new photos, and new essays to make your diet better. Even the Nationals are showing their love for farmers’ markets this Sunday.
A human being is primarily a bag for putting food into; the other functions and faculties may be more godlike, but in point of time they come afterwards. A man dies and is buried, and all his words and actions are forgotten, but the food he has eaten lives after him in the sound or rotten bones of his children. I think it could be plausibly argued that changes of diet are more important than changes of dynasty or even of religion….Yet it is curious how seldom the all-importance of food is recognized. You see statues everywhere to politicians, poets, bishops, but none to cooks or bacon-curers or market gardeners. – George Orwell, The Road to Wigan Pier
For those unaware- food is chemical energy. Plants absorb nutrients through the ground and air, and through a process known as photosynthesis use sunlight to turn carbon dioxide and water into sugars. We use those sugars, and often the minerals attached to them, to function (or after some effort, not function. Thanks, alcohol!) Sometimes we get our sugars direct from the plants, like when I hork down a flat of blackberries or house an entire bucket of carrots one after another. Sometimes we eat things that ate those plants, and in doing so get sugars, proteins (amino acids- particularly the essential ones we cannot produce ourselves,) and fats in the bargain. With this in mind, consider the calorie as a unit of energy (which is what it is.) Any and all food purchases are a matter of considering calories per dollar, allowing for recommended daily allowances of organic and inorganic nutrients (in this instance, “organic” means “containing carbon.” More on other, more asinine uses of “organic” later.) But more than that, we elevate food because it can be both vital to survival and pleasurable. We want to eat well, and eating well is a function of spending judiciously on things that are good for us, that we will actually eat. No one was ever nourished, physically nor emotionally, by simply having some bland eggplants and flavorless parsley in their fridge.
When buying vegetation, you’re not buying a story- you’re buying crunchy sugars and water. The goal is to buy fruits and vegetables with the right proportions of sugars and water, and the right measures of vitamins, minerals, acids, and pigments. Circling all the way back to farmers markets- most farmers you’ll meet at farmers markets aren’t lovingly misting cruelty-free tomatoes with naturally limestone-filtered pure mountain stream water. The upside though is someone trucking a tomato in from a farm 50 miles away probably didn’t need to pick it while it was green and gas it with ethylene to turn it red. (Ethylene won’t hurt you. It makes tomatoes look pretty, but doesn’t much help the flavor. As a tomato matures, it eventually begins releasing ethylene. At the right temperatures, ethylene triggers the production of carotene and lycopene. If a tomato is allowed to mature properly, and the plant is healthy, it develops a balance of sugars in addition to acids and other nutrients at the same time it turns bright red, yellow, purple, etc. The result is a pretty tomato that tastes better than it looks. Green tomatoes forced artificially to turn colors will be less sweet, and are often mealy or mushy.)
The real upside to buying veggies at a farmers market is you’re getting them at their freshest, at peak season. And yes, this does matter. Sure, you’ll briefly turn into Jon Stewart in Half Baked, convinced everything is better in season (“Have you ever had ramps, man? Have you ever had ramps… in April?!?”) But you quickly come to appreciate even the shortest of windows in which to buy fresh, ripe produce. You NEED the sugars. You WANT it to be a pleasant experience. Getting your veggies from a farmers market means you have to do less to them to make them taste good, meaning you’re all the more likely to eat them. This is likewise a fiscal argument. While the cucumber industry appreciates you keeping them afloat, if you buy and actually eat every amazing, sweet, aromatic cucumber you’re less likely to spend more money buying more cucumbers to turn into green sludge in the back of your veggie drawer.
Radically changing gears, let’s talk meat (if that’s your thing. No judgment, at least not from me anymore.) Meat is a horse of a different color, though not in the US since we don’t eat horses… You will notice going to a farmers market, meat is more expensive than meat at a grocery store, even compared to what you no longer consider the overpriced vegetables available. Meat is a delayed, concentrated form of sugar. You’re eating what the animal ate. The upside of buying meat at a farmers market is that meat was probably cared for. (Again, ignore Portlandia. Your chicken did not have a name and a therapist. Probably.) Different farmers, who you can meet and talk to, raise different breeds of different animals produce different meat products under different circumstances. Certain heritage breeds are known for storing subcutaneous fats, others for intramuscular fats. Some make good bacon, others good roasts.
Diet plays an oversized factor, though variety in diet seems to be the key. Farm-raised catfish fed a strict diet of corn mash taste like nothing. Soylent fish. But corn has its place in diets. It’s high in calories, meaning it finishes, or ups the fat content of animals towards the end of their noble lives. Leading up to that, though, you want to hear about chickens eating millet and bugs, worms, flowers and grass seeds. You want to know your pigs were literally rooting around for apples and mushrooms, nuts and grasses and corncobs and sometimes actual roots or the occasional snake. (Seriously. Pigs love snakes.) Commodity beef- so named because the cattle are raised in such numbers as to be sold on the commodity market (meaning they are sold in most cases before being born, and certainly before they go from cow to steak) requires the cows to reach a certain weight in a certain time for a certain price of feed. If that means feeding them surplus Mexican candy, that’s what they get. Farmers markets have farmers raising a few animals, which rarely get commodity feed. Add to that the increased cost of boutique butchery (especially if they’re doing it themselves,) and you will end up paying more for a superior product at a farmers market. Again, do cost/benefit on this though: pricier but tastier meat means more of it gets eaten. It means a greater reverence for the animal from whence it came. It means you stop being a bag for putting food into.
[“Organic”: unlike organic chemistry, the capital-O Organic is used as a marketing term to imply healthfulness. It is at the moment a legal definition, actually two, set forth by the USDA and the EC (Europe’s version of the USDA.) Organic food means food grown or raised in compliance with organic farming practises. These practises include land management and sustainability, eschewing artificial fertilizers and pest control methods, and minimizing antibiotics and hormones in livestock. Like all legalities, there’s wiggle room, and like all business, Organic has become more about the bottom line than benefiting the consumer. Sustainably raised fruits and vegetables grown without most pesticides or commercial fertilizers are going to pick up the same terroir (fancy wine and food term for “flavors of the dirt”) and be just as good for you whether or not the farm is certified Organic. As for meat, all animals produce hormones, you want to eat animals that were given extra hormones. Likewise, you want healthy animals, but you don’t want to eat animals so full of antibiotics trace amounts remain in the meat, or to contribute to an outbreak of antibiotic resistant illness. Finally, when it comes to animals you’ll see a lot of people freak out over the conditions in which the animal lived. This matters, but don’t get bogged down by labels. “Cage-free” might just mean “stuck in a barn.” If you raise an animal to get fed in a pen, but leave the door open, the likelihood is the animal will be conditioned to wait in the pen for feeding time. Delicious animals are ones who roam around and eat a variety of things, and get exercise in the process. Ask about it at your local farmers market.]
I’m from a rural part of Washington State – not the part with the apples, the part with berries, spinach, and tulips. My dad, who grew up farming and whose family still farms corn and soybeans in Illinois, insisted that my first ever job would be rouging spinach – separating the male plants from the female plants for some reason that was very important to the seed company that was paying me $4.25 an hour. I was terrible at it (it was harder than it sounds?), and at the age of 14 or 15, I learned that farming was not my calling.
It also taught me that that shit is hard. I was only at it for six weeks one summer and I couldn’t hack it. I have a tremendous amount of respect for farmers, especially the ones at farmers markets, who are both farmers and small business owners. In addition to all of that, they’re trying to compete with Monsanto on one side and Safeway on the other. For me, supporting people doing that work, people who could be my family or neighbors if I were still living in other parts of the country, is enough reason to get me to farmers markets every weekend.
But the other thing that gets me to my local market is the quality of the food and the chance to talk with the people growing and producing it. Getting to know the vendors and chatting with them about how badly they need rain or the price of eggs is a rare chance in DC to talk about something unrelated to the Metro or the latest Washington Post headlines. Yeah, sometime it costs more than Safeway, but if you can’t tell the difference between local berries or tomatoes and the ones from the grocery store, you deserve the flavorless stuff they shipped in 2 weeks ago from a thousand miles away.
What makes a good farmers’ market, you ask? Did you find yourself rhetorically answering, “farmers,” and then chuckling sarcastically under your breath? You did? You asshat. Yeah, farmers help. Farmers are an essential piece. But saying “farmers,” without specifying is like saying you like breathing gases, without stipulating you prefer they contain oxygen, and not oh, chlorine.
You need farmers, but they can’t all have apples or carrots or one thing. You need some with greens, some with berries, one or two with tree and stone fruits. Often one will focus more on jams, jellies and fresh sauces using the vegetables they sell. Ideally you have at least two cheese stands, one doing aged stuff, one doing cultured things like butter, yogurt, and fresher cheeses. There should be meat stand or three, each specializing in something different (one could even be a sausage and salami stand staffed with dashing, clever gentlemen.) Oh, a bakery is good, but you’re going to want a place that does bread and then a patisserie doing decadent stuff too. It couldn’t hurt to have crafts people, maybe a pickle guy, and at least a few vendors making stuff to eat right then and there: a waffle or crepe stand, and someone selling empanadas or samosas or dumplings are always welcome.
Just as important to the mix is the placement. Nobody selling the same thing too close so one’s business is cannibalized. Snacky stuff can bunch up, but only because not everyone goes shopping for their groceries at a farmers’ market, sometimes you just want to walk around sipping fresh local coffee and noshing on a ripe peach or chocolate croissant on a warm, clear day. That’s another thing- the weather. Warm spring day? Good. But a still day, where no one’s tents are blowing all over the place is almost always preferred to it being blazing hot and sunny. Likewise, no one wants to be out when it’s sleeting, but there’s something peaceful and picturesque about the market in winter, breezeless flurries making that seven spice hot chocolate all the more delicious.
There seems to be this misguided dualism about markets- either it’s somewhere quaint to stop when vacationing in a small town or it’s the snootiest of the hoi-polloi overpaying for organic vegetables and eggs so well cared for they’ll be enrolled in a Montessori school if they’re not first made into omelets. Fuck that noise. This is rudimentary grocery store economics at its best. I work at a farmers’ market, and the longer I work at one, the more I regret not starting sooner. I like food. I like knowing from where my food comes, and ideally, from whom. You eat cheaper, you eat better, and you eat healthier (although it might not always seem like it.) Having a conversation with someone who knew your meat when it was still an animal doesn’t make you pretentious, it makes you informed. Eating well isn’t about guilt; of all the arts one could indulge in, cooking (creating art) and eating (appreciating art) is the only one that’s a biological imperative (just don’t have this argument with the lady who makes scented candles.) Even if you think things are expensive, even if some folks are hired hands and not the “loving, artisanal purveyor” you imagined, find a local market and wander around a bit. It may never replace your supermarket (I know I’m never going to laser off my “I [heart] Wegmans” tattoo, that’s for sure,) but you could do worse than spending a few hours outside with food and like-minded people. -Jeb Gavin
I love the idea of farmers’ markets. Supporting local businesses, eating better, getting outside early on the weekend, it’s all great in theory. The problem is I am not an early riser. It’s easy to wake up at 7am on a weekend, it’s difficult to leave the house before 10am on a weekend. I still want to support local businesses and eat better and get outside, I just don’t want to do it on the same schedule I keep on weekedays. For the last 18 months, I’ve enjoyed the benefits of farmers’ market without having to actually go to the farmers’ market. The fine folks at Washington’s Green Grocer will deliver the same goods you’ll purchase at your favorite weekend stop but not on the weekend! My Friday delivery means I feel no guilt about sleeping like an adult on the weekend. We asked Washington’s Green Grocer Zeke Zechiel for his Top 5 reasons you should consider Green Grocer. You really should consider it. -Brandon Wetherbee
- You get to sleep in on Saturdays…and still get all the best locally grown and produced, fruit, vegetables, milk, cheese, bread, meat, flowers, grains, fermented products, cakes, cookies, quiches, soups, salads pizza dough and more!
Columbia Road and 18 St. NW
Saturdays, 8 a.m. to 2 p.m.
- The market is very small but entertaining. If you’re not really looking for anything in particular but might like some flowers, why not stroll over? Occasionally there’s a performance that is confusing. A few weeks ago 10 individuals between 25 and 65 were doing a choreographed dance that included 2x4s. I learned nothing but it looked neat. -Brandon Wetherbee
Location and Times Vary
- Arcadia is a mobile farmer’s market committed to bringing fresh produce to underserved communities. You can find a schedule on their site.
4th St. & I St. SW
Saturdays, 10 a.m. to 3 p.m. May through November
102 R ST NW, Between N. 1st St & N. Florida Ave in Bloomingdale
Sundays 9 a.m. to 1 p.m. May 12 to November 24
- Though small in size, Bloomingdale Farmers’ Market is my go-to lazy Sunday stop for all the fresh dairy, meat, baked goods, and fresh produce you could possibly fit in your fridge. The market is conveniently located blocks away from my humble abode and comes complete with an awesome info booth where you can bug vendors for free recipe printouts and seasonal cooking demos. You’ll find me here on Sundays from 10-2 p.m.. I’ll be in PJs. —Rachel Cumberbatch
5701 Broad Branch Rd. NW
Saturdays 9 a.m. to 1 p.m. year-round
Woodrow Wilson Plaza, 13th St. & Pennsylvania Ave NW
Fridays, 11 a.m. to 3 p.m. May 3 through November 22
200 M Street SE
Sundays 9 a.m. to 1 p.m. May 5 through September 29
1098 New York Ave NW, Between 10 and 11 St.
Tuesdays 11 a.m. to 2 p.m. May 7 through October 29
Civic Plaza, 14 St. & Park Rd NW
Saturdays 9 a.m. to 1 p.m. April 20 through December 14, Wednesdays 4 p.m. to 7 p.m. May 22 through October 9
- If you want your Farmers’ Market to be as crowded as humanly possible, this market is for you! -Brandon Wetherbee
Dupont Circle, 1500 20th Street NW
Sundays 8:30 a.m. to 1:30 p.m. year-round
- What makes the FRESHFARM Dupont Circle farmer‘s market the best in the city is simple: it goes with whatever kind of Sunday you’re having.
Waking up early and crushing it at the gym? Treat yo self to some Dolcezza gelato afterwards. Recovering from a wild Saturday night? No one will frown at your sweatpants if you want some fresh-roasted Zeke’s coffee to go with your hangover. Spending a lazy day with the boo? Take ’em to FRESHFARM and show ’em all the wonderful things you’ll be cooking for dinner; I recommend a salad from Spring Valley and a couple of bison steaks from Cibola Farms.There’s so much to choose from, you don’t have to worry about getting there early — this place just never, ever looks picked over. And we’re heading into okra and asparagus season — hearty, tasty vegetables that really benefit from farm-to-table treatment. -Tristan Lejeune
225 7th St SE, Washington, DC 20003
Weekend outdoor market 7 a.m. to 6 p.m. Saturdays and 9 a.m. to 5 p.m. Sundays, “Fresh Tuesdays” Farmers Market every Tuesday 1 p.m. to 7 p.m. year round, South Hall Market open Tuesday through Sunday
- The Eastern Market farmer’s market is a no brainer because it’s also a flea market and a street market and a covered market and surrounded by restaurants and coffee shops and cool little bookstores. Vendors line 7th St SE in Capitol Hill selling flowers, succulents, a ton of different fruits and vegetables, gourds, dairy products, art, jewelry, soap, etc. Pretty much everything you could ask of a farmer’s market. Since it’s so huge and the street is blocked off, crowds are relatively minimal; like, it’s bustling but not to the point of frustration. The indoor market does get pretty tight for space, but it’s worth rubbing shoulders for a glimpse of all the cool stuff they sell. A warning: the spicy shrimp ceviche is labeled “Spicy” for a reason. Proceed at your own risk. There are also a handful of food vendors parked in the surrounding area if you want to grab something portable to eat on the go. Parking isn’t too difficult to find in the surrounding neighborhoods, but it’s got its own Metro stop about a block away. Bonus- whereas most farmer’s markets are a Saturday-closed-before-I-even-think-about-waking-up thing, the outdoor farmer’s market at Eastern Market is open Saturday and Sunday into the early evening. -Melissa Groth
I Street Mall walkway, Between 23rd and 24th St. NW
Wednesdays 3 p.m. to 7 p.m. April 3 through November 27
- This farmers market is located in a courtyard/walkway between GWU’s campus and a cute neighborhood of pastel colored townhouses. Convenience is key as it’s literally right next to the metro and a walk from Georgetown and the National Mall. It’s smaller, about 10 vendors, but definitely worth the trip. If you don’t cross off everything on your grocery list, there’s a Whole Foods across the street. A person very dear to me bought me apple butter from this farmers market as a darling surprise gift. Let’s just say I ate apple butter on everything for the next month—a must-buy. -Morgan Day
Between 14th and Kennedy St. NW
Saturdays 9 a.m. to 1 p.m., April 20 through November 23
In front of the Reeves Center, 14th St. and U St. NW
Saturdays 9 a.m. to 1 p.m. May 11 through November 23
Rose Park, Between 26 and O St. NW
Wednesdays 4 p.m to 7 p.m.; April to October
Saturdays 9 a.m. to 1 p.m.; Dates TBD
Wednesdays 11 a.m. to 4 p.m. Fall (September 4 to November 13) and Spring
Hardy Middle School Parking Lot, 1819 35th Street NW, Washington, DC 20007
Saturdays 9 a.m. to 1 p.m. May 18 through November 23
800 13th Street NE
Saturdays 9 a.m. to 12:30 p.m. April 6 through December 14.
Arts Walk at Monroe St. Market
Saturday 9 a.m. to 1 p.m. April 20 through December 14
- Just behind the Red Line’s Brookland/Catholic University Metro station and the giant BROOKLAND signage on the outer eastern wall of the Monroe Street Condominiums is the best once-weekly sign that NE DC’s Brookland community is on the rise. The Lydia’s Fields-managed Historic Brookland Farmers Market occurs on Saturdays from 9 a.m. – 1 p.m. at the Monroe Street Arts Walk, and in an enclave that’s for some *just* not walkable enough to reach big-box grocers and department stores, it serves as a sustainable place for shopping for affordable and locally-sourced produce, coffee, baked goods and other items.
Brookland’s rise as a redeveloping community-to-watch has been well-chronicled. However, like as in Mount Pleasant or Dupont (sites of two very popular D.C. Farmer’s Markets), the market is the best place to see the community’s social and cultural diversity, as well as grab items from the likes of personal favorites including all of the crafters renting space at the Monroe Street Arts Walk, Zeke’s Coffee, Dress it Up Dressing (salad dressing, that is), Pleitez Produce, Chelsea Farms, Upper Crust Artisanal Bakery, Ruben’s Crepes, DC Dills and more. The proximity to Brookland Pint and &pizza? Well, that’s just the cherry-on-top for the experience. – Marcus Dowling
4321 Ord St. NE
Saturdays 9 a.m. to 1 p.m.; June 1 to November 21
Mount Pleasant St. Plaza
Saturdays 9 a.m. to 1 p.m.; April 6 to December 21
- Super small and super cute. If D.C. were to get a Portlandia, at least one main character would work here. The selection isn’t very large due to the small size of the market, but there always seems to be a banjo and acoustic guitar duo making stereotypes come true. -Brandon Wetherbee
499 I St. NW
Saturdays 9 a.m. to 1 p.m. May 4 through November 16
Ran Sundays 9 a.m. to 1 p.m. May 19 to August 4
RFK Parking Lot No. 6, Between Oklahoma Ave and Benning Rd NE
Thursdays, and Saturdays, 7 a.m. to 4 p.m. year round
48th Pl NW & MacArthur Blvd
Sundays 9 a.m. – 1 p.m. year round
801 F St. NW, on F Street NW between 7th St. & 9th St.
Thursdays 3 p.m. to 7 p.m. April 4 through November 21
Upshur & 9th St. NW
Saturdays 9 a.m. to 1 p.m. May through November
Sheridan School, 36th and Alton Place
Tuesdays 3 p.m. to 7 p.m. June through September
Saturdays 8 a.m. to 1 p.m. June through November
425 M Street SW across form the Waterfront Metro Station
Saturdays 9 a.m. to 1 p.m. April 13 through November 2; Fridays 4-10 p.m. May 3 to October 18
- As D.C. farmers markets go, the SW market is small and incredibly low key. On any given Saturday, there are between 6 and 12 vendors there – depends on the weather and whatnot. But you can always count on finding produce, meat and eggs, and – if you’re like me – a pecan roll or chocolate croissant. There might also be coffee, chili, flowers or music. Or there might not be. Every week is just a little bit different, and that’s the best thing about the SW market: the people who show up show up, and everyone finds what they need and then some. -Trisha Brown
4340 Connecticut Ave. at UDC’s Law School
Saturdays 8 a.m. – 2 p.m. through November
12th Street & Independence Ave SW, Washington, DC 20050
Fridays 9 a.m. – 2 p.m. May 3 through October 25
3200 6th St SE
Saturdays 10 a.m. to 2 p.m. opens until November 22
1300 E St SE
Wednesdays 3-7 p.m. opens June 19 until October
810 Vermont Ave NW, Between H and I St. NW
Thursdays 11 a.m. to 2 p.m. April 4 through November 21
7600 Arlington Rd. at Old Georgetown Rd., Bethesda, MD
Sundays 9 a.m. to 1:30 p.m. April through December
Cheverly Community Center, 6401 Forest Road, Cheverly, MD
Alternate Saturdays through October 20, schedule online
Holiday Markets: November 17, December 8
MedStar Hospital Thrift Shop Grounds, Rt 108 & Prince Phillip Dr.
Sundays 9 a.m. to 1 p.m., check their schedule for details
REI Rockville Parking Lot, 910 Rose Ave., North Bethesda, MD
Saturdays 9 a.m. to 1:30 p.m. April 27 to November 23
Potomac United Methodist Church Parking Lot, 9908 S. Glen Rd., Potomac, MD
Thursdays 2 p.m. – 6:30 p.m.; May through November
Rockville Town Center, Corner of Route 28 and Monroe Street
Saturdays 9 a.m. – 1 p.m., May 18- November 23
890 Ellsworth Drive, Silver Spring, MD
Saturdays 9 a.m. to 1 p.m. January through December
- If you want to experience Silver Spring as a proper city, go on a farmer’s market Saturday. Saturday mornings are a perfect scene of fresh produce, restaurants opening up their patios, and there are always a few performers or bands rotating throughout the day. It also seems to attract the best/most ridiculous looking dogs. The highlights of this market include their knack for being on top of popular seasonal items, like ramps, quality fruits presented in the shapes of animals from Three Springs Fruit Farm and incredible goat cheese from Peachy Family Dairy. The whole market ends up smelling like heaven thanks to Talking Breads, a baking company from Perry County, PA. This market fills up fast but Silver Spring’s got a lot of space for it. Get there early to avoid the stroller crowd. -Farrah Skeiky
Laurel Ave, Takoma Park, MD
Sundays 10 a.m. to 2 p.m. year round
- Takoma Park is known as being the crunchiest neighborhood in town, and its farmers market lives up to its reputation. From local eggs to a local musician to a local guy who makes fresh empanadas, this Farmer’s Market has everything. Highlights include visits from food trucks, street performers, an annual apple pie contest, and best of all, all summer long a local winery serves wine at the Market. Because let’s be honest: everything, even visiting a Farmers’ Market, is better with booze. -Priya Konings
Intersection of N. Courthouse Rd. and N. 14 St.
Saturdays 8 a.m. to 12 p.m. April 27 through December 28, Saturdays 9 a.m. to 12 p.m. January through March
- While it’s not the biggest farmer‘s market in the area, the Arlington Farmer‘s Market in Courthouse wins for consistency. Many of the same vendors have been there for years, and there’s a solid representation of all your main food groups. There are some good meats and cheese vendors (one vendor even has bison), fresh fruits and vegetables, and a few vendors selling fresh cut flowers as well. And of course, there are the fan favorites, the mini-donut and crepe trucks. There’s also a flea market in the same area, and while the farmer‘s market only runs until noon, you can browse for tchotchkes at the flea market all day. -Alyssa Devlin
Welburn Square, 901 N Taylor St, Arlington, VA
Thursdays 3 p.m to 7 p.m. April 4 through November 21
300 Park Ave, Falls Church, VA
Saturdays 8 a.m. to 12 p.m. April through December, 9 a.m. to 12 p.m. January through March
2011 Crystal Dr., north of Crystal City Courtyard Green
Tuesdays 3 p.m. to 7 p.m. May 14 through October 29
Sherwood Library, 2501 Sherwood Ln. Alexandria, VA
Wednesdays 8 a.m. – 12 p.m. May 1 through December 18
1659 Chain Bridge Road, McLean, VA
Fridays 8 a.m. to 12 p.m., May 3 through November 15
7731 Leesburg Pike, Falls Church, VA
Sundays 8:30 a.m. to 2 p.m. April through December
Market Square, 301 King St.
Saturdays 7 a.m. to 12 p.m. year round
- When I lived in Alexandria I would go to the King Street farmer’s market every Saturday. Occasionally I’d make it there before 9am when it got super hectic and packed with strollers and kids on leashes, but mostly I’d walk over around 10:30 or 11 when it was pretty much chaos. I approached this market strategically because I knew it’d be crazy, and that strategy was to get in, buy flowers, get out, go to Trader Joe’s (I’m not good in high stress environments). There are two flower vendors at the King Street market. One caters to the hoity toity calla lily hyacinth peonie spend-40-dollars-on-five-flowers crowd; the other, the one I go for, is a bit more reasonable, and run by three good ol’ boys from the country. I regret that I only learned one of their names, and that was because he had it tattooed on his arm. Randy. What a guy. He said it was in case he ever gets too drunk and forgets it. Anyway, they’re charming fellas and they’ve got a huge selection of gorgeous flowers in $5-$15 bouquets. Every week they’ll have something different mixed in. One week it’s Asclepias, or colloquially “monkey balls.” Their stall is right on the corner of the market so I never had to actually go into all the craziness that is an Alexandria farmer’s market, but if you love a challenge, this is the market for you. When I did venture into the center of the market, I was mowed down by a lady with a stroller. It was absolutely intentional. You’ve gotta want that loaf of fresh baked sourdough real bad. This is a high stakes market; this is not a market for browsing. Know what you want, plan your attack, execute fast-paced organic goody grab, and get out. Say hi to Randy for me. -Melissa Groth
Lake Anne Plaza, 11404 Washington Plaza, Reston, VA
Saturdays 8 a.m. to 12 p.m. April through December
1800 N. Lynn St., Arlington, VA
Wednesdays 3 p.m. to 7 p.m. May 22 through September 25
Vienna Community Center at the corner of Park St. and Cherry St. SE, Vienna, VA
Saturdays 8 a.m. to 12 p.m. May 4 through October 26
- Often swarming with locals and their tiny children on Saturday mornings, the Vienna Farmers Market provides such a wide variety of foods and flowers. An awesome beautiful small-town feel with friendly vendors, this Farmers Market is assured to satisfy all your Farmers Market needs. 10/10 would recommend the kettle corn, and even just getting up to walk around and see what’s for sale on Saturday mornings is worth the trip. – Mackenzie Bailey
1. Get there when it opens— If a farmers market is popular, you’re definitely going to want to get there early to beat the crowd. You’ll also have first choice of the products, early bird catches the worm my friends.
2. OR when it closes— for a deal! A lot of vendors want to get rid of the food they brought and are willing to lower their prices at the end of the day. There’s the possibility you won’t be able to get everything you need, but hey risk it for the biscuit! (okay we’ll stop now)
3. Watch the crowd— if the crowd is swarming one vendor then they probably have an awesome product. Pay attention the avid farmers market goers (typically clad in clogs, light wash jeans, and a farmers market specific bag)— follow them. Stalk them, buy what they buy, no shame here.
4. Talk with the vendors— Being friends with the vendors has a number of benefits. First, they definitely play favorites so you’ll inevitably get the best bread or beans, and when you sample their new products they won’t be shy with portions. The vendors are also generally pretty cool people with killer knowledge on produce. Win-win. -Avalon Jones