CALIFORNIA PRODUCE ACCOUNTS FOR much of the color and variety we see in grocery stores across the US. Over 400 different crops are grown in the state, including what amounts to nearly the entire national supply of artichokes, walnuts, kiwis, and plums. Farmers operate in most regions of California, and there’s always something in season no matter when you visit, so farmers markets are staples of any trip to the state. To learn more, check out CA Grown.
1. Ferry Plaza Farmers Market, San Francisco
The scene at San Francisco’s Embarcadero marketplace takes “bougie” to a whole new level — though, admittedly, McEvoy’s olive oil does taste like your tongue is being deliciously massaged with a satin ribbon. The farmers market in the Ferry Plaza out front is deservedly praised as one of the best in the country.
It’s known for its diverse array of organic-certified, locally grown produce and unbeatable artisan provisions (hello, cheese), but never fear, meat eaters — there’s also plenty of charcuterie delights. Come on a Thursday or Saturday for hot food from local chefs and restaurants. Tuesday is also a market day. Welcome to foodie heaven.
2. Marin Civic Center, San Rafael
There are actually two different markets held at this impressive site, the final architectural masterpiece of Frank Lloyd Wright. On Sundays, the Civic Center Farmers Market is one of the largest in the state, hosting around 200 local farmers during the summer months. Pick a bouquet from the colorful array of flower stands that decorate the market (sunflowers are my favorite) and grab a loaf of fresh-baked bread for a picnic by the duck pond.
On Thursdays, a slightly smaller market attracts area chefs shopping for fresh, local ingredients. It’s also a pretty sweet spot to grab a weekday lunch from one of the many food vendors onsite.
3. Thursday Night Market, Chico
Free bike valet. If this weren’t enough to attract a loyal crowd, downtown Chico’s Thursday Night Market also moonlights as a street festival with live entertainment. Spanning multiple streets, it’s a grand summer affair that attracts folks from nearby locales such as Paradise, Gridley, and Orland.
If not for the certified-organic produce and artisan wares, come for the live music — and bring the whole family. From the kid zone to the food trucks and street performances, the market appeals to anyone who enjoys a night of good company and even better food. Things kick off at 6pm and run till 9.
4. Point Reyes Farmers Market, Point Reyes Station
Housed in Toby’s Feed Barn (summer Saturdays 9am-1pm), this West Marin market takes “farmer” to a literal level. Like its host city, the Point Reyes Farmers Market is far from pretentious and doesn’t lack for quality despite its smaller scale.
Situated in the heart of fertile West Marin, the quaint market offers an uber-local menu, with provisions hailing from the likes of Bolinas and Tomales. If you don’t like cheese (i.e., you have no soul), try hometown favorite Cowgirl Creamery. Five bucks says it turns you into a believer.
5. Old Monterey Farmers Market, Monterey
From the gyro to the baklava, each booth at the Old Monterey Farmers Market provides a taste of a far-off place. To best enjoy the market’s worldly quality and delicious foreign offerings, stroll its streets with an open mind towards trying new delicacies (a strong appetite doesn’t hurt either). As for local fare, Monterey’s fresh fruit and pastries speak for themselves.
Tourists and locals mingle at this popular event, so you’re sure to make a new friend waiting in line for the kettle corn. Find it all on Tuesday afternoons, 4-8pm (summer) / 4-7pm (winter).
6. Kensington Farmers Market, Berkeley
Berkeley’s health nuts get their weekly fix at the farmers market at Colusa Circle in Kensington. From the usual assortment of leafy greens and dried fruits to hand-pressed olive oil and artisan ciders, this market dabbles in a bit of everything. Local artisan coffee Catahoula also makes an appearance.
While praised for being vegan-friendly, the market also hosts Fat Daddy’s BBQ stand, which you should not miss. Go to work on some ribs as you make your way to Tom’s Best Ever Granola, where you can fulfill your Berkeley cliché with delicious homemade granola. The Kensington Market takes place on Sundays from 10am to 2pm.
7. Arcata Farmers Market, Arcata
On summer Saturdays, locals head to Arcata Plaza for live music and organic food bliss. If you’re not hungry, just check out the local bands or enjoy the excellent people watching — hippies and environmentalists galore. The only thing sweeter than the local honey is the loyalty of the sun, which always seems to be shining on market days. With its hard-to-beat local products (vegetables, fresh flowers, homemade fudge), Arcata is the cream of the crop of farmers markets this far north.
8. Davis Farmers Market, Davis
Utilizing its advantageous position in California’s agricultural heartland, the Davis Farmers Market is the definition of hyper local. Spanning 4th Street in this college town, the market has mastered both quality and quantity. It’s also open year round, rain or shine (Saturday 8am-1pm + Wednesday afternoons).
Kettle corn is a favorite, or satisfy your sweet tooth with some local honey. Grab a jar and some freshly baked French bread and enjoy an impromptu picnic at nearby Central Park.
9. Healdsburg Farmers Market, Healdsburg
This market veteran was one of the original Certified Farmers Markets in California. In addition to showcasing a feast of fresh food, Healdsburg offers some of the finest wine the 707 area code has to offer. It takes place Saturday mornings and Wednesday afternoons, summer and fall.
Though less of an all-day event than some of the bigger markets, Healdsburg is a great mix of tasty treats, artisan crafts (handwoven tea towels!), and charming local vendors. Which makes it the ideal blend of Northern California’s best qualities.