A farmers’ market is a place for farmers (and their employees) to sell food directly to consumers. These markets are hosted in fields, school parking lots, public squares and other gathering spaces and offer people a chance to buy local, fresh, seasonal and delicious food directly from the producers.
Depending on the market, the vendors must meet certain guidelines, whether about the distance from the market — i.e. what defines “local” — or guidelines for things like pesticide use or that vendors must have grown all of their food themselves. Farmers’ market websites might publish the standards for participating in the market. To learn more about what to look for and ask about while you’re there, visit our Shopping Sustainably page.
Farmers’ markets have proliferated in the US over the past two decades, with more than 8,500 markets currently registered in the USDA Farmers Market Directory.
Seasonal food is fresher, tastier and more nutritious than food consumed out of season. Find what’s in season near you with our Seasonal Food Guide.
In 2017, American farmers received only 17.4 cents of every dollar that people spent on food in this country. At farmers’ markets, farmers make more like 90 cents on the dollar. At a time when small family farms are struggling, this support is especially crucial. And while farmers’ markets sometimes get a rap for being more expensive than grocery stores, this is often not the case.
Local food supports the local economy. The money you spend on products from local farmers and growers stays in the community and is reinvested with other local businesses.
Vendors at the farmers’ market can tell you how the food was grown. When you buy directly from farms, you can ask what practices they use to raise and harvest the crops. Read more about what questions to ask here.
Many farmers’ markets have requirements for the food there to be “low spray” or “no spray,” and while some have no requirements because the farms are smaller, they tend to be run with more sustainable practices in mind.
You can also look for signage that tells you whether the farms are certified organic, are selling Animal Welfare Approved meat and eggs, or employing practices like Integrated Pest Management. Read our tips for questions to ask and also visit our Food Label Guide.
Learn more about farmers’ markets from the Farmers Market Coalition.
Find out what’s in season near you with our Seasonal Food Guide.