Best Farmers Markets

Every so often, even the most ardent green thumb needs a getaway. But why not plan a trip that entwines a little R&R with your favorite hobby the way a pumpkin vine wraps around a cornstalk?

Your options are as plentiful as a bumper crop of tomatoes. There are now almost 5,000 farmers markets nationwide, according to the U.S. Department of Agriculture, so there's likely to be one not far from where you're heading.

For your convenience, we've scoped out five well-known markets. Just pack your canvas or recyclable shopping bag and get ready to thump cantaloupes and sniff tomatoes. You're sure to feel right at home.

Top 5 Farmers Markets

Portland Farmers Market
Portland, Oregon

Open on Saturdays from late March through mid-December, this venerable feast for the senses, located on the Portland State University campus, appears on many lists of top farmers markets. Maybe that's because it offers great regional produce, live music, cooking demonstrations by top chefs and even a parcel pickup service for overeager shoppers. Four other affiliated markets run on weekdays in other neighborhoods. Go ahead and shop till you drop.

Santa Monica Saturday Organic Farmers Market
Santa Monica, California

From master gardeners and dietitians to top chefs and free recipe samples, this Los Angeles-area standby is clearly more than just a produce paradise. Along with the entertainment, you'll find a year-round cornucopia of fresh fruits and veggies. Bonus points: Was that Brad Pitt standing behind the avocados?

Union Square Greenmarket
New York, New York

When in the Big Apple, do as the locals do: Go gourmet and shop at this urban oasis, where city slickers learn what produce really tastes like. Manhattan's rock-star chefs come here to sniff, squeeze and scrutinize a plethora of produce from upstate New York, Connecticut, New Jersey and beyond. The plentiful pluses include cheese, honey, jam and grass-fed beef. Dozens of other markets operate in New York City under the Greenmarket umbrella, but this is the group's flagship location. Take a bite and savor the flavor.

Dane County Farmers' Market
Madison, Wisconsin

About 150 regional vendors line the square around the state Capitol to sell mind-boggling mountains of fresh produce and, of course, cheese and other dairy products. Held rain or shine on Saturdays nearly year-round, the market also features live music and arts-and-crafts booths. A stop here is a capital idea, for sure.

Crescent City Farmers Market
New Orleans, Louisiana

Along with fresh produce, this colorful year-round market in the historic Warehouse District also offers baked goods and fresh seafood. Toss in live jazz and cooking demonstrations, and you've got a stew as sassy as a bowl of spicy, steamin' Cajun jambalaya. And leave it to the Big Easy to make shopping, well, easy. Vendors don't take plastic, but shoppers can convert credit- and debit-card allocations into Crescent coins, a sort of local currency accepted by all vendors. Laissez les bon temps roulez!

Other Top Picks

Shop a Market Near You

Don't know where to start? To find organic markets, farms and other sources of sustainably grown food close to home, visit:

Source: Birds & Blooms "Grow Veggies for Less"