From a focus on sustainable agriculture to gourmet hot food, this month local farmers markets are kicking into high gear throughout the region. The modern farmers market concept dates back to at least the 1930’s in California. According to the USDA’s 2011 Farmers Market Directory (, there were 7,175 farmers markets in the United States. It comes as no surprise that California leads the nation: our 2011 tally, with markets across the entire length of the state, was 729. The number of farmers markets has risen rapidly since the USDA started tracking them in 1994. The USDA’s rankings show that New York comes in second with 520 markets, and North Carolina is 10th, with 217 markets statewide.

California (729 markets)
New York (520)
Michigan (349)
Illinois (305)
Ohio (278)
Pennsylvania (266)
Massachusetts (255)
Iowa (237)
Wisconsin (231)
North Carolina (217)

What’s the appeal that is spurring the rapid growth of the farmers market? Healthy eating and shopping in the open air are important factors. But there’s another reason—farmers markets are a natural opportunity to connect with friends and acquaintances—making them a community “living room” where children can play, live music can be enjoyed and you can get to know the farmers who grew the food. Here in the U.S., the farm-to-table concept started in California, where we have come to expect the freshest, locally grown fruits and vegetables. Join the growing number of people who shop for fresh produce at more than one market each week. The Benicia Farmers Market kicked off in late April, Thursdays from 4-8pm through October at First and B Streets. Here are a few more to consider:

Vallejo                         Saturdays 9am-1pm             Georgia Street at Marin Street
Fairfield                      Thursdays 3-7pm                 Jefferson Street at Texas Street
Martinez                     Sundays 10am-2pm             Main Street at Estudillo Street
Walnut Creek             Sundays 9am-2pm               N. Locust between Giamona and Lacassie
Berkeley                     Tuesdays 2-7pm                   63rd and Adeline Streets
San Francisco            Thursdays 10am-2pm         Ferry Plaza