Finding your perfect farmers market
One of our Instagram followers asked us which of the farmers markets in the Dallas area had the best produce selection because she had gone to the Dallas Farmers Market but felt it “lacks produce.” That’s when we decided to start our farmers market investigation. It took twists and turns we were not expecting.
Stop #1: Saint Michaels Farmers Market
I started out at the closest farmers market to my home, the Saint Michaels Farmers Market, which “is a non-profit community outreach ministry of Saint Michael and All Angels Episcopal Church.” It is held in the church parking lot and the place was bustling by the time I left at 8:30am. It was the second smallest market we visited but it had a wide variety of items to choose from such as bread, baked goods, tamales, lamb, chicken, eggs, pickled foods, jellies, jams, granola, cheese, coffee, pork, olive oil, tacos, chips and salsa, and honey. There were approximately 30-35 vendors and seven were selling produce. I visited with a few vendors and there were so many good stories of people trying to farm in a way that is in harmony with the environment and follow humane practices to raise livestock and eggs. A lot of the fruits & veggies seemed quite over-priced so I didn't buy as much as I wanted, but I left the market with some fresh, locally grown produce, a smile on my face, and hope in the future of our local farming practices.
Stop #2: White Rock Local Market
Then I was off to the White Rock Local Market, which is held in the Lakepointe Church parking lot. This market is run by Good Local Markets, which is a “nonprofit organization working to create a stronger demand for local foods.” All of their growers and artists are “from a 150-mile radius of our community” (that bit of information will become VERY important at our next stop). This market is larger than the Saint Michaels Market with a more diverse list of offered items but it also had seven vendors selling produce. I loved that one of the produce vendors was a community garden — you can’t get much more local than that. You could tell this is a place where the community gathers and relationships are formed. Some of the items offered were tea, bread, baked goods, coffee, tamales, jewelry, beef, lamb, cheese, soap, plants, chocolate, pickled foods, jellies, jams, Kombucha, eggs, chicken, toys, and cut flowers.
Stop #3: Dal-Rich Towne Square Market
The next market on the list was the Dal-Rich Towne Square Market in Richardson, which is run by Four Seasons Markets. This company’s objective is to provide “a platform for entrepreneurs with homemade, handmade and harvested goods.” This was the smallest of the four markets we visited, and this is when we realized not all vendors at farmers markets are selling local produce. There were only two stands selling produce; one of the vendors was clearly a local grower where we bought some delicious tomatoes and peaches, but when we walked by the other produce stand and saw cherries and avocados, we started questioning what we had just seen. You can’t commercially grow those items here in North Texas with our extreme weather conditions. The produce all looked so perfect without a blemish or speck of dirt. Marianna then noticed that there were stacks of Driscoll fruit boxes in the back of their stand. Driscoll is a great berry producer, but they are located in California. Marianna then asked one of the salesmen where his produce was from and he answered, “Where do you want it to be from?” Definitely not the answer we were looking for!
The Dal-Rich market had people selling eggrolls, leather goods, handmade aprons and kitchen towels, juices, walking sticks, cheese, coasters, baked goods, Spanish olives, lemonade, chicken, eggs, Andersen windows, plants, dog treats, jewelry, and one food truck selling popsicles and cake balls and another selling Maine lobster (hmmm…that doesn’t sound too local either). We relaxed at some tables and chairs provided at the market and enjoyed delicious, handmade Salvadorian pupusas. We left with full tummies and quite a bit of frustration about the produce selection and how deceiving that must be for people who haven’t learned how to spot non-local produce.
Stop #4: Historic McKinney Farmers Market
Our last stop of the day was the Historic McKinney Farmers Market at Chestnut Square. Their website states that “100% of all products sold must be grown, produced and/or processed in Texas.” It also states that “at least 60% of Farm raised products sold must be homegrown within a 150 mile radius of McKinney and up to 40% of Farm raised products may be acquired from other local farms.” That was another interesting eye-opener.
We thoroughly enjoyed our time at the McKinney Farmers Market. It was the largest market we visited with a varied selection of products that included dog treats and clothes, plants, ginger beer, candles, Mexican food, pickled foods, jelly, jams, bread, baked goods, photography, jewelry, knife sharpening, walking sticks, tamales, salsa, beef jerky, coffee, cheese, hummus, soaps, face painting, toffee, children’s bows, pottery, two live music performers, and even a pony ride for kids! This market had at least 10 vendors selling produce and we had a great time visiting with them and the other vendors. One of the farmers was having an open house at their farm later in the day and hopefully next year we’ll be able to attend. The McKinney market was a hit and we’ll definitely be visiting again.
Top 3 lessons learned and what to look for in a farmers market
Figure out what you're looking for and find a market that caters to that. A major takeaway from our farmers market morning was that each of them is unique and offers something different. If you're looking for local artists, a delicious lunch, or fresh produce (like our Instagram follower), each market will speak to you differently and some will meet your needs more than others. The main thing is to think about what is most important to you in a farmers market and find the ones that highlight that aspect of the experience.
Proximity is key. We had fun driving all over Dallas for the morning checking out the different markets, but there's no way we're going to do that every Saturday! Although the McKinney market was our favorite of the day, we probably won't visit too often since it's about a 30 minute drive for us. You want to try to find a farmers market that's easily accessible for you so you can make your visits a regular occurrence.
LEARN TO SPOT THE FAKERS AND ASK WHERE THE PRODUCE WAS GROWN! We're not trying to be harsh, but seeing people selling produce grown in California or Florida really frustrated and angered us because of how deceiving it is. Don't get me wrong, no judgement here for going to the grocery store and buying produce grown out of state or even in another country, but at least you're doing so consciously. When people go to farmers markets they're often making a special trip to do the right thing and assume they're talking to actual farmers from the local area. Unless you know your market has strict rules on who they allow to sell there, don't be shy to ask where the produce is grown and if they're the ones growing it! Key tell-tales of non-local fruits & veggies: all the produce looks perfect, they're selling things the none of the other farm stands are, and YOU SEE DRISCOLL BOXES STACKED IN THE BACK!