The first Farmers Market in the US opened in Boston Massachusetts in 1634, while the 13 colonies were still under British rule and just 14 years before the pilgrims settled nearby in Cape Cod Bay.
As grocery stores later gained popularity across the country, farmers markets became less interesting to the average consumer until the late 1900’s. In the 1970’s, Americans became more health conscious and craved fresh produce grown locally and the farmers market boom grew 300% over the next 30 years. Today, the US boasts of more than 8,000 markets nationally. These markets connect consumers to farmers, bakers, ranchers, and food businesses around the country.
Today, as white tablecloth chefs hunt down new ingredients to serve at their restaurants, they continue to flock to farmers markets for inspiration. In the movie CHEF, director Jon Favreau depicted a restaurant chef scouring The Santa Monica Farmers Market for ingredients he would later feature on his menu. Ingredients such as fresh flavor extracts (vanilla bean), superfoods such as black cumin seeds, specialty cheeses and heritage meats (that have literally saved entire breeds of animals) are found in farmers markets today.
Consider Chipotle; a ripened and smoked jalapeno chili; a virtually unknown food just 35 years ago. Fine dining chefs discovered Chipotle en Adobo at farmers markets and specialty ethnic grocery stores in the 80’s. Years later, the golden arches spent hundreds of millions of dollars successfully promoting chipotle that brought this once exotic ingredient to American pantries everywhere. Coincidentally, today, chipotle is a staple on most quick-service restaurant menus across the globe. From unknown to fame in 30 years while all starting at a farmer’s market. Consumers also enjoy specialty foods bought at farmers and specialty markets according to Mintel. In fact, according to their study, 5% of Americans shop at these venues while 25% of all organic diners regularly shop at farmers markets today.
Many farmers markets temporarily closed due to COVID 19 but are reopening as their states and local municipalities allow. And just in time for the bountiful fall harvest of colorful, nourishing fruits and vegetables, flavored oils and let’s not forget the fresh baked goods. The bakers at CraftMark Bakery and I have been inspired by visits to farmers markets as we look for new ingredients and flavors that we can add to enhance our bakery creations. Our baked goods feature many of the same high-quality fruits and flavor extracts found at farmers markets in our cookies, breads, flatbreads and muffin batters.
Get outside and stroll your local farmers market. You’re bound to find something new, interesting, locally grown and absolutely delicious.