One of the best ways to take in a city’s local culture and gain insight into its gastronomy is by visiting a local farmers market. It produces a region’s local flavor, color, and beauty. This is especially true of West Palm Beach’s GreenMarket.
Now in its 27th season, this world-class market was voted the country’s best farmers market by the “10 Best Reader’s Choice Poll,” as reported by USAToday earlier this year, the only one in Florida to crack the top 10.
According to Farmers Market Coalition, there are over 8,600 farmers markets registered in the USDA farmers market directory. Every city here represented, benefits greatly from this economic and social opportunity, mainly because the markets, which are taking center stage in the US food supply chain, allow direct contact between producers and consumers.
The explosive growth of direct sales that’s occurred at farmers markets in the last decade tells a lot about the times in which we live. More than ever, consumers’ main focus is on personal health and welfare, as well as on finding effective methods of supporting and sustaining their communities.
How to Shop at a Farmers Market
When you shop at a farmers market, there is no second-guessing if what you’re buying is in season or not. All that’s available to buy is what’s growing in the fields at that time. But there is an art to shop there.
Whether you’re a first-time shopper or a regular market goer, be sure to avoid the following farmers market foul:
1. Don’t stop at the first stall that catches your eye and load up on all the delicious fare they have on display. You may miss out on something better around the bend!
2. Don’t haggle prices with the vendors. That’s a farmers market no-no!
3. Don’t shop without asking questions. Here’s your chance to ask questions from the very people who grow or produce the goods.
4. Don’t show up without cash. Though many vendors have a variety of credit card options, cash still rules at farmers markets.
A Sweep of a Farmers Market Done Right
Meandering through the throngs of people going about their weekend venture at the West Palm Beach GreenMarket is an experience. Noted for selling a wide range of locally grown crops and specialty products, including fresh vegetables, fruits, plants, flowers, baked goods, seafood, teas, and artisan cheeses, as well as promoting local food hubs and street shops, the market has been open since 1995. It gets a ton of foot and bicycle traffic.
People looking for high quality, lower-cost goods and products that are grown or processed by the very people selling them is a huge attraction. Even if you’re not into that kind of thing, the GreenMarket is worth a visit for the colors, smells, tastes, and sights of fresh foods and products displayed and sold here. Everything is fresh, fresh, fresh. From freshly-cut flowers to freshly-pressed juices. So, be sure to pack some extra totes to carry all your fresh goodies home.
As you enter the market via Clematis Street, the heart of West Palm Beach, you’ll encounter a maze of over 100 friendly vendors whose stalls and farm stands line up around the Great Lawn, along the city’s waterfront. They can tell you exactly where and how their goods were grown, raised, or harvested. And if you can allow time, take a seat at one of the nearby bistros and cafes and spend a few moments observing the people in the market as they search for a little bit of something tropical, something spicy, something crafty—something worth having to take home with them.
To get the best out of this lively market, it’s best to arrive as early as possible. There are fewer people then so you can chat with vendors, and nab the free samples at a jam or cheese stand. You can also sit on one of the many benches at the market and enjoy your coffee or lemonade while nibbling on a delicious, buttery pastry or other delectable baked goods from vendors like Loic French Bakery, Baguette Plus Baking Co., or Havana, one of the best Cuban restaurants in town.
For the best deals, do a last lap around the market. Leave when the merchants begin packing for the day. Anything less is a farmers market sweep done wrong.
Before you leave, don’t miss walking through the flower and plant stands. From beautiful Birds of Paradise, lavender, roses, and different variations of orchids, to sea grapes, palm trees, and a remarkable assortment of other tropical plants, the GreenMarket has an inviting scent, look, and feel—a mix of tropical and European flair.
As you go, be sure to grab something for your four-legged pal, too.
Before You Visit
Check out wpb.org/events for a list of all the vendors and other important information. There’s free parking at the city-managed Evernia and City Center garages until noon. If you’re interested in arriving by boat, take advantage of the city’s free public docks. Attendees who wish to use the city trolley may take either the Green or Yellow.
The art of shopping at West Palm Beach’s Farmers Market