Home Discover Texas Mom Blog All You Need to Know About Farmers’ Markets 

All You Need to Know About Farmers’ Markets 

Fariya Khan

February 16, 2022

To me, farmers’ markets are places filled with childhood memories. Sitting hunched with my little sister near a fresh produce stall at the Dallas Farmers Market, snapping open pods to reveal juicy peas, and trying not to let them slip as we quickly snaffled them. Smelling blooms as we walked by flower stands, we lived for those strawberry kolaches our mother would buy towards the end of our weekend trips.

A tradition I have managed to keep alive with my family now.

 If you ask me, visits to farmers’ markets around Texas are for family bonding, getting all that weekend energy out in the right way, and also picking up some fresh, local goods for the weeks to come.

what can I expect from a farmers market

What can I expect from a farmers’ market?

The answer to this really depends on the region in which the farmers’ market is located, its size, and the season you are in. Farmers’ markets in Texas vary in size and kind – however, they always reflect local farming conditions and practices. From those with just a handful of vendors to large open-air spectacles with hundreds of different sellers, the variety of farmers’ markets in Texas is as big as the Lone Star State itself! 

Some markets are seasonal and pop up at certain times of years, while others run all year round.

Nevertheless, I believe the best treats still travel the shortest distance. Produce appearing at your favorite market should be fresh, having arrived from a local farmer, not tired from a thousand-mile journey on interstate highways, or weeks in a chilled container van traveling across the Pacific. 

Some markets focus on select kinds of produce, while others carry a wide range of fruits, vegetables, baked goods, meat, eggs, dairy products, and flowers too! Often sellers showcase locally made crafts or homemade foods as a complement to the agricultural produce they sell.

Farmers’ Market Staples 

After years of pottering around these foodie havens, I’ve come to realize that there are some staples you will most likely always find at your local farmers’ market.

  • HoneyIf you’ve never tasted local honey, then you better rush to your nearest farmers’ market. Honey is both healthy (in moderation!) and delectable, with many beekeepers and honey makers nowadays infusing this sweet product with different flavors in a bid to delight your taste buds. Local honey also helps alleviate seasonal allergy symptoms, so it’s a win-win. When purchasing honey, it’s always interesting to ask the vendor where the honey comes from to learn more about the reasons behind its delicious taste.
  • Grass-fed beef and fresh seafoodBuying grass-fed beef from your local farmers’ market has several advantages. Not only is it the freshest meat you can get (unlike the stuff that is shipped across the country or, heaven forbid, the planet), beef from free-roaming cattle in nearby farms is naturally less fat than its grain-fed counterparts. Pasture-raised beef is shown to be higher in omega-3 fatty acids, which can help boost brain power and prevent heart disease. Similarly, if you’re in the Gulf Coast area and looking for fresh seafood, your local farmers’ market is the place to go.
  •  Seasonal Produce Shopping at a farmers’ markets is the simplest way to eat locally-grown, organic produce. You don’t have to read a label to know where the food comes from—the grower is right there, just ask them!

Store-bought fruits and veggies aren’t even in the same league as the farm-grown kinds found at farmers’ markets. Cherry tomatoes, rainbow-colored carrots, seeded grapes, and countless kinds of berries—you can find all these and more!

  •  Pasture-raised eggs and raw milk – Wanting to purchase raw milk from a local farm? You may be able to pick it up at the market they sell at. Read here for more details on raw milk delivery in Texas. Pasture-raised eggs are also very popular at farmers’ markets, and if your family is an egg-loving one like mine, you’ll want to grab a dozen or two!
  • Bread and baked Goods – We all know there’s no better smell than when a waft of freshly baked bread hits you as you walk past a baked goods stall. Farmers’ markets often sell a variety of baked goods, with vendors offering everything from freshly-baked kolaches to gluten-free hamburger buns. Make sure you keep your eyes peeled for international favorites such as croissants, baguettes, and donuts!
  •  SpicesWhile many grocery stores may boast a range of spices from around the world, you can often find a wider (and fresher) selection at a farmers’ market. Dried sage? You got it. The same goes for thyme, cinnamon, and chili. Depending on the market you visit, you can also get your hands on some hard-to-find ethnic spices to imbue your cooking with flavor.
  •  Artisanal products – Farmers’ markets are the best spots for picking up artisanal items such as pasta, cheeses, pickles and preserves. Small businesses offering handmade candles, pottery, soaps, etc. also often sell their handicrafts at farmers’ markets, as these places are great for introducing products to a large community without having to set up a brick-and mortar-shop.

produce at farmers market

What’s a Producer-Only Farmers’ Market?

If you’ve heard the term “producer-only” in discussions about farmers’ markets, you may be wondering what it means. A producer-only farmers’ market is, as the name suggests, a place where only vendors who have produced the products themselves can sell items. Often this kind of market also allows the family of the producer or employees to sell products. The following kinds of producers are typically included in a producer-only farmers’ market:

  • Agricultural producers who produce meat (except fish, fowl, and feral animals), dairy products such as cheese and yogurt, and processed meat items, e.g., bacon, jerky and sausage made by the vendor’s products or at their commercial kitchen, butcher or processing establishment.
  • Non-agricultural producers who create a product from raw materials. This process includes using as many local and market materials to make the product.
  • Artisan producers who use outside materials and integrate them with other local products or have products assembled by a local artisan.

One of the largest producer-only markets in the Lone Star State is Texas Farmers Market (TFM) Mueller, and they have very strict ways to ensure that everything in the market comes directly from the producers! 

Are Flea Markets the Same as Farmers’ Markets?

Flea markets and farmers’ markets are very much two different types of markets. While flea markets deal with non-food items, farmers’ markets usually offer fresh produce and other food-related products. A flea market is normally a place where people buy and sell used goods, with customers being allowed to negotiate the prices for their purchases. In contrast, a farmers’ market consists of people selling and purchasing fruits, vegetables, meat, baked goods, and the like at a standard price. 

How Can I Find a Farmers’ Market Near Me?

It’s quite simple, really. Head on down to the TexasRealFood home page, enter your zip code, and explore the site. TexasRealFood also has an easy-to-use page with listings of farmers’ markets all around Texas that you can check out here. 

How Do I Know What Markets Are Open Today?

Harvest season is usually peak market season. However, when harvest season takes place can depend on a number of factors, including weather, variety, and region. With Texas being such a large state, there is quite a large variety of geographical conditions within its borders. Nevertheless, year-round farmers’ markets thrive in many Texan locations. Markets also transition to year-round operation by stocking items such as meat, eggs, dairy, bread, and other products that can be freshly produced throughout the year. 

To know which markets are taking place on a particular weekend, check out our local listings that share up-to-date information about Texas farmers’ markets. You can also get this info directly to your email inbox by signing up to the free Texas Real Food newsletter! Or you can bookmark this page  for weekly updates about what farmers’ markets are open.

And of course, it goes without saying that if the weather is looking a bit iffy, it’s best to call the farmers’ market on the day you’re planning to go to make sure it’s still going ahead, since many of these markets are open-air.

Seasonal Market

What are Seasonal Markets?

Unlike the unending choices in the grocery produce section, a farmers’ market works at the mercy of Mother Nature. Local farmers grow produce based on what’s in season. Accordingly, seasonal markets only spring up during the time that supports their harvest and yield.

Spring Markets 

After a bout of severe winter here in Texas, an early spring is easily the biggest wish of your local farmers’ market. If you thought of spring as the season when things start growing, you will be pleasantly surprised to see that some produce has been waiting all winter to reach its peak. Radishes, beets, ferns, rhubarb, asparagus, mint, baby carrots, snap peas, are special in that they are seasonal only when the weather is transitioning from cold to warm. Who knows, you may pick up some very beautiful, local blooms too!

Summer Markets

Summer in Texas is when farmers’ markets are in full swing. Summer farmers’ markets are bright and attractive and it is very easy to to get inspired by the lines of organic fruits and vegetables, local meats, bread, cheeses, exquisite flowers, and more.

Undeniably, it can be somewhat overwhelming to determine where to begin and what to pick. I find it quite helpful to make a list of what I want before heading out. But in general, you can always find eggplants, leeks, tomatoes, cucumbers, corn, summer squashes of all kinds, beans, bell pepperks, okra and all sorts of berries at a summer farmers’ market.

Winter / Holiday Markets 

While for much of the country, winter means frigid temperatures, snow and an icy sidewalk, Texas obviously doesn’t have this problem. The temperate climate here means we can continue enjoying trips to the farmers’ markets.

Winter farmers’ markets in Texas also offer plenty for holiday shoppers. cheeses, eggs, raw honey, coffee, and home baked goodies among other things. Many flower growers, offer lovely fresh greens, dried flower wreaths, and bouquets that can last for many seasons. In addition to decorative floral pieces, you may find a variety of potpourri, infused oils and vinegars, soaps and candles that make for meaningful holiday gifts. 

While you might not find stalls brimming with tomatoes or peaches come January, produce grown right here in Texas will still be available. We’re talking lettuce, chard, potatoes, onions, beets, garlic and more. Some farmers leave hardy crops with established root systems to grow, as some continue to provide harvest through the winter, a farming technique called overwintering. Some commonly overwintered crops include cabbage, kale, mustard greens and spinach.

However, don’t be surprised if you find greens, cucumbers, herbs, and even tomatoes here in January. Yes, the farmers make it happen. During the winter months, farmers rely on crops grown with season extension tools. Temporary greenhouses and row cover help them produce a larger diversity of crops, throughout the year. Some farmers also incorporate hydroponic systems — growing plants indoors in nutrient-rich water instead of soil — to produce warmer weather crops year-round.

What time do farmers’ markets open and close?

There’s no clear-cut answer to this question. As we have mentioned earlier in the article, market schedules are dictated by the weather and the seasons. But of course, our team here at TexasRealFood monitors over 300 farmers’ markets in Texas to bring you their opening and closing schedules and updates the schedules on the TexasRealFood updates page.

Tips and tricks for shopping at farmers’ markets

  • Shop what is in season.
  • Plan your shopping list beforehand.
  • Get their early to get the best picks.
  • If shopping on a budget, some farmers’ markets allow end-of-day discounts on prices, find out and visit accordingly.
  • Ask farmers about how they grow their products, their origin, what they taste like, and how to prepare them.
  • Bring cash, small change, and big bags.
  • Budget for some fun purchases and unexpected finds.
  • Don’t forget to mask up!
  • Last, but not the least, make it a trip to unwind and enjoy.

What Texas farmers’ markets is your go-to? What do you like most about them? Leave a comment below and let us know! 

Looking for a more kid-specific guide to farmers markets? Check out our Market Day Fun with Kids guide here.