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Farmers in the City Farmers in the City

Farmers in the City

by Erica Cerulo, Andrew Holder
September 21, 2008

The best farmers' markets for your money

With the number of farmers' markets in the United States climbing comfortably toward 5,000 (up from 1,755 in 1994), there's no denying the national obsession with knowing the stories behind our food. But there are some things that even the farmer who sells you blackberries and rapini can't tell you about your shopping experience. Here's the info you need to know about the country's five best markets.

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PORTLAND FARMERS MARKET

at Portland State UniversityPortland, OR

Local specialties: Pears, cranberries, morels, chanterelles, truffles, blackberries, abalones, clams, crabs, and oystersStar stands: Gathering Together Farm for salad greens and herbs; Viridian Farms for peaches, asparagus, and chicories; Gilson Marine Farms for bivalves; SuDan Farm for lamb; Two Tarts for peanut-butter oatmeal cookiesScene: Portland natives are quick to brag about their hometown exports-think Nike, Powell's Books, and Elliott Smith-and the market at PSU is a recent addition to this ever-growing list. "Many Portlanders have become quite possessive about the market and are asking for it to become year-round," says Scott Dolich of Portland's Park Kitchen.

 

FERRY PLAZA FARMERS MARKET

on the EmbarcaderoSan Francisco

Local specialties: Strawberries, artichokes, apricots, figs, almonds, pistachios, grapes, persimmons, pomegranates, oranges, grapefruits, kumquats,, guavas, dates, crabs, avocados, olive oilStar stands: Dirty Girl Produce for radicchio, tomatoes, and beans; Yerena Farms for berries; Brokaw Nursery for avocados and citrus; Shogun Fish for salmon; Pt. Reyes Farmstead Cheese Company for blue cheeseScene: The Ferry shoppers are hard core. They show up long before the brunch hour on Saturdays and bombard the coffee stand (local organic roaster Blue Bottle Coffee) before moving onto the produce-and attack it so aggressively that you fear for the lives of nearby children. According to Chris Cosentino, chef of Incanto, "It's really serious: It's like [fighting to get] the last Cabbage Patch doll for your kid to get a basket of strawberries."

 

DANE COUNTY FARMERS MARKET

on The Capitol SquareMadison, WI

Local specialties: Cheese curds, morels, hickory nuts, plums, corn, tomatoes, emu, ostrich, venisonStar stands: Blue Valley Gardens for asparagus and turkeys; Harmony Valley Farm for rhubarb and spinach; Black Earth Valley for mushrooms and lettuces; Fountain Prairie Farms for beef; Bleu Mont Dairy for cheesesScene: For a place as progressive as Madison, the restaurant scene is anything but mind-blowing. And because of this, the city's culinarily inclined seek refuge in the market and its more obscure offerings (emu, anyone?). Even Tory Miller of L'Etoile, the city's most accomplished chef, claims, "There is one farmer with a dozen varieties of different kinds of greens. You don't realize that variety exists."

 

BOULDER FARMERS MARKET

along Central ParkBoulder, CO

Local specialties: Popcorn, winter squash,  kale, spinach, berries, elk, goat milk, and raw cheesesStar stands: Cure Organic Farm for potatoes, leeks, and beets; Grow-Anywhere Air-Foods for microgreens; Munson FarmStand for corn and popcorn; Haystack Mountain Goat Dairy for goat cheeseScene: Boulder is a place that even strident granola-munchers would describe as crunchy, and it's likely because of this sensibility that its market thrives. As Lachlan Mackinnon-Patterson of the northern Italian-themed Frasca Food and Wine, "There probably isn't an example of another town with 100,000 people that produces so many great leaders in the natural-food industry." What does this mean for the marketgoer? Be prepared for a side of Sun Salutations with your produce.

 

UNION SQUARE GREENMARKET

New York City

Local specialties: Herbs, garlic, ramps, apples, maple syrup, fava beans, heritage meats, heirloom vegetables, and  eggs (duck, pheasant, turkey, goose, and chicken)Star stands: Stokes Farm for herbs and peppers; Eckerton Hill Farm for tomatoes; Flying Pigs Farm for heritage pork; Ronnybrook Farm Dairy for milk, yogurt, and ice creamScene: Getting New Yorkers to acknowledge that a universe exists beyond bodegas and 24-hour delivery is a feat unto itself, but the greenmarket goes further, capturing an excitement about produce that is hard to explain. "It's a really direct connection between the rural world and the urban world," says Peter Hoffman the local-food pioneer chef of Savoy and Back Forty, "and you start to see these worlds aren't as divided as certain people want to make them out to be."LEARN MORE  portlandfarmersmarket.org; ferrybuildingmarketplace.com; madfarmmkt.org; boulderfarmers.org; cenyc.org
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