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5 Amazing Farmers Markets To Visit Before Your Next Advenuture

7/15/16 by Emma Walker

Before embarking on a day (or several days) of adventure on wilderness trails—be it hiking, running, rock climbing, or mountain biking—there's one essential stop to make before leaving civilization. Make time to visit your neighborhood farmers market, not only because the best food to fuel your trip can be found there, but because these gatherings of vendors selling their locally produced goods are worth exploring in their own right.

Pack for your trip the night before, but leave room for the fresh, organic and energy-sustaining food you're sure to find at the farmers market. You'll want to get there early, the morning of your trip, to find the farmers soon after they've set up their tents and arranged their colorful wares. From Seattle to Boston, and in countless cities and towns in between, summer always means farmers market season.

Farmer markets transform parks—and parking lots and other public spaces—all over the country. These community-rooted cornucopias of fruit, veggies, and other locally produced goods have steadily gained popularity in the United States—the roster has grown by more than 3,500 markets in the last 20 years—but the concept isn’t new. Farmers markets go back as far as ancient Egypt, where agrarian communities gathered along the Nile to sell the fruits of their labor. Nowadays, farmers markets exist in myriad forms all over the world, from highway fruit stands in small-town Middle America to the 54-acre, 1,700-stall Tokyo Central Wholesale Market.

For an active person or endurance athlete about to spend several hours in the backcountry, there's no better source than a farmers market for fresh fruit (with which to maintain hydration), leafy greens (for the potassium that keeps muscle cramping at bay), and nuts and seeds (rich in protein and sodium, the latter lost through prolonged sweating). The trick is limiting one's grocery shopping to what can be comfortably carried. 

Farm-to-table (or farm-to-backpack, in this case) food is abundant at farmers markets. Later, as you're munching homemade granola trailside, you can be assured that the person you bought it from made it with ingredients they grew. By cutting out the middle man, farmers don’t lose a portion of their profits to grocery stores, and in-season fruits and veggies spend less time being handled and transported, which cuts down on costs—not to mention that produce just tastes better when you know exactly where it came from.

A great way to locate the farmers market nearest you—or local farmers in CSAs (community-supported agriculture programs that deliver goods to your door)—is through localharvest.org. Just plug in your town or the town you're visiting. Or load the farmstandapp on your smartphone for quick access to 8,700 farmers markets worldwide.

The U.S. Department of Agriculture also maintains a database of farmers markets across the country. Here are five worth a visit to see what's sprouting up locally.

1. Pike Place Market, Seattle

Pike Place Market, Seattle, Washington.
Pike Place Market, Seattle, Washington. Tiffany Von Arnim

In operation since 1907, Pike Place is one of the oldest continually operating farmers markets in the country. It's also consistently among the most visited tourist destinations in America, and it's not hard to see why. The multi-story market overlooks the picturesque Elliot Bay waterfront and houses booths selling everything from fresh seafood to antiques, as well as the original Starbucks cafe. It's all open for business 363 days a year, so you can get your farmers market fix long after other stands have closed up shop for the season. And soon, there will be more for locals and visitors to love: In 2017, the market is set to unveil a massive expansion that will include a new public space and viewing deck, plus 12,000 square feet of space for retail and commercial vendors.

Look for: Superfoods like salmon, kale and blueberries can be found at Pike Place Market, according to localharvest. Also jerky and almonds, handfuls of which can be awesome treats on a hike.

2. Haymarket, Boston

Haymarket, Boston, Massachusetts.
Haymarket, Boston, Massachusetts. amy gizienski

Haymarket is hands-down the best farmers market to get your history fix. Located in Boston’s historic Market District, where vendors have been operating since the 17th century, Haymarket is open dawn to dusk on Fridays and Saturdays year-round. It’s a rich cultural scene, too: A public art installation went in for the Bicentennial in 1976, and artists and photographers gather in Haymarket Square to document the diverse array of vendors and their products. When you’ve gotten your fill of fruits and veggies, continue along the Freedom Trail, a two-and-a-half mile walking route that stops at 16 historically significant sites throughout the city.

Look for: Beets, honey, and oats. Beets, in particular, are full of vitamins, minerals, antioxidants and nitrates—key to reducing inflammation and increasing cardiovascular endurance and athletic performance.

3. Union Square Greenmarket, New York

Greenmarket, New York, New York.
Greenmarket, New York, New York. Todd Van Hoosear

With its prime location in the heart of Manhattan, it’s no surprise the Union Square Greenmarket serves 250,000 shoppers at the height of its season. The market has grown substantially since its 1976 inception —in those days, the seven vendors at Union Square typically sold out before noon—and now features fresh, seasonal produce from local small-scale farmers on Mondays, Wednesdays, Fridays, and Saturdays all year long. Thanks to its proximity to a number of subway routes, it's easily accessible for both locals and visitors. And around the holidays, it's also a great spot to pick up some locally inspired gifts, which are on sale from late November until December 24.

Look for: Real, locally sourced maple syrup, believed to prevent blood sugar spikes commonly caused by refined sugar and high fructose corn syrup.

4. Dane County Farmers' Market, Madison, WI

Dane County Farmers' Market, Madison, Wisconsin.
Dane County Farmers' Market, Madison, Wisconsin. Richard Hurd

The Dane County Farmers’ Market started with just one rule: A ll products must be Wisconsin-grown. That requirement,  still enforced today, means this market is among the most authentic local markets in the Badger State. This is a huge point of pride for Wisconsinites, many of whom have worked tirelessly to secure workers’ rights, and it shows: Producers who sell their goods here are part of an organized co-op. Inspired by the open-air European markets of old, the Dane County Farmers Market is set against the bucolic backdrop of rural Wisconsin. Visit the market on Saturdays and Wednesdays during the summer, or check out the Early Winter Market, which runs mid-November through mid-December.

Look for: Arugala, all manner of berries and melons and tasty tomatoes you'll eat like apples.

5. Santa Fe Farmers' Market

Santa Fe Farmers' Market, Santa Fe, New Mexico.
Santa Fe Farmers' Market, Santa Fe, New Mexico. Cyborglibrarian

The Santa Fe Farmers’ Market has come a long way since the early 1960s, when local farmers gathered in town to sell their produce from the backs of their trucks. Fifty years and several moves later, the market has made its permanent home in the Santa Fe Railyard, where 150 farmers from 15 northern New Mexico counties gather every Saturday all year long ( plus Tuesdays from May to November) to browse the enticing rows of produce, meat, dairy, eggs, honey, a head-spinning array of peppers, and baked goods, plus crafts and fresh-cut flowers, all of which are New Mexico-grown or produced.

Look for: Assorted dried fruit chiefly to replace the potassium lost through the exertion of hiking. And because fresh bananas aren't grown locally or very portable.

Originally written by RootsRated for Marmot.