Ultimate Guide to Farmers' Markets

A stall at the Marylebone Farmers' Market sells farm-fresh eggs.
A stall at the Marylebone Farmers' Market sells farm-fresh eggs.
Dan Kitwood/Getty Images

Farmers' markets are open-air or indoor markets where farmers come regularly to sell their produce, meats, herbs and flowers directly to you. In fact, farmers' markets aren't too different from roadside farm stands -- they just have a lot more volume and selection. Farmers' markets consist of numerous vendor booths, while a single farmer sets up a roadside stand.

Whether you live in the inner city or in the suburbs, finding your farmers' market is as easy as looking in an online directory (such as the one found at LocalHarvest), looking around your town for signs advertising the time and place, or asking your local chamber of commerce. Markets are typically open in the morning on designated days and attract more than 3 million consumers annually [source: Farmers Market Coalition].

In 2006, there were more than 4,300 farmers' markets operating across the country -- an 18 percent increase from the 3,700 markets operating in 2004 [source: USDA]. Recent estimates suggest more than 60,000 farmers participate each year and generate $1 billion in consumer spending [source: Farmers Market Coalition].

In this article, we'll learn the benefits of shopping at your local farmers' market, how markets operate and the nutrition programs in which many participate.