Cold New England winters give way to carts of plump tomatoes and peppers in the summer, filling Boston’s long-anticipated farmer’s markets with overflowing stalls. Both seasonal and year-round markets offer plenty of activity and authentic local items – you can enjoy what’s on offer in all parts of the city.
Boston residents and tourists alike go to farmer’s markets to pack their canvas shopping bags with produce, baked goods, seafood and homemade gifts from hundreds of vendors across Massachusetts. The tradition has been going strong in the city since merchants first sold their wares in 1742 at Faneuil Hall Marketplace, and it’s still a popular activity today. Most farmer’s markets in Boston set up bi-weekly in May and June and linger until the week of Thanksgiving, when pies and berry crumbles sell out fast. Today, nearly 30 markets pop up in parking lots and main squares across the Boston area. Here are some of the best.
One of the greatest joys of the Public Market: it’s open year-round. The central building at Haymarket was completed in the summer of 2015, and it’s quite large – the structure houses up to 40 artisans and food producers, offers large picnic-style tables for families and friends to gather at and features a seasonal open-air fruit and vegetable market that sets up just outside. With so many food samples and trinket browsing and handcrafted gift items, it’s a fun activity to just walk around the spacious building to visit the different stalls. Everything sold at the market is produced or originates in New England, as the seasons allow. Perched above a T stop in the historic Blackstone Block, it’s also a convenient byway for visitors to the TD Garden looking for a snack or meal before a Bruins or Celtics game. Permanent and beloved stalls include Crescent Ridge Dairy ice cream, Levend Bagelry with its organic hand-shaped sourdough bagels and a brick-and-mortar stall from the popular Bon Me food-truck service. Vendors also frequently offer cooking classes and tastings.
It’s won every award you can shake a carrot at, and every season is full of new vendors, musicians and family activities. The Roslindale Village Main Street Farmer’s Market spreads out across Adams Park from June to November, every Saturday, rain or shine. Run by volunteers and founded by one of the first urban Main Street organizations in the country, the market is community-run and community-focused. Stalls highlight microgreens from nearby urban farming projects, herbs and botanicals, ceramics and jewelry from local artists and house-made marshmallows and caramels. At the RVMS stall, locals can gift each other “Rozzie bucks” certificates to spend at neighborhood restaurants, boutiques and specialty shops and indulge in local businesses even after the market closes Saturday afternoon. Plus, a day trip to the neighborhood is perfect for hanging out in the Arnold Arboretum or massive Franklin Park.
Just steps outside the Boston Public Market is the outdoor Haymarket. Though it’s every bit as bustling as the former neighboring indoor market, this space feels livelier in the sunshine and along the narrow street that funnels visitors into a tightly packed crowd. You’ll hear chattering and bartering (though, as a word of caution, only barter when buying in bulk; these New England farmers will give you a blank stare if you simply offer to give them less money than they’re asking for their hard-won crops). You’ll typically find mostly produce in these stalls, so it’s less of a trinket and souvenir stop and more of a practical kitchen stop or a place to purchase and pop some berries into your mouth while strolling around the city. The market doesn’t have strict opening times, so be on the lookout on nice days anytime between dawn and dusk.
“SoWa” stands for South of Washington, a corner of the South End neighborhood from East Brookline Street to East Berkeley Street and from Shawmut Avenue to Albany Street. The self-described art and design district of the city hosts antique furniture stores and art galleries in old brick warehouses, and its market opens up every Sunday from May to October. You can start Sunday off right with a visit to the Food Truck Bazaar with its rotating cast of a dozen vendors, lined up outside the SoWa Power Station. What’s often described as a “barn” was once the world’s largest power-generation plant, and it produced enough electricity to run the West End Street Railway. Nowadays, its wide warehouse door opens to a beer garden festooned with string lights and livened by local musicians. Along Harrison Avenue, produce and meat vendors line the sidewalk alongside rows of paintings, etchings and hand-stitched clothing. The “artsy and eclectic” neighbors host indoor-outdoor events at the Power Station throughout the year, including a holiday market for craft gifts and goods after Thanksgiving.
This bustling market comes from humble, hard-working beginnings. This Thursday stalwart has been up and running for 36 years, and it’s now stationed in the Center Street West Parking Lot in Brookline. You can find watercolor posters announcing the start of the market in late May or early June, and it runs until Thanksgiving. In addition to a wide variety of local fruits and veggies, hallmarks include hand-glazed pottery and jarred goodies like Alex’s Ugly Sauce hot sauce from Brookwood Community Farm or the Red Gravy from Valicenti Pasta Farm. The market also highlights pasture-raised meats, baked goods, fermented foods and cheeses, and each holiday season patrons make a substantial donation of fresh fruits and veggies to the Brookline Food Pantry.
Set up beside the famous Trinity Church and under the soaring John Hancock Tower in Back Bay, the Copley Square market is well attended and beloved. Beat the lunch rush – though the market is typically open from 9am to 5pm, many office workers and tourists come for treats and groceries around noon – or don’t. Even if the produce crates run empty, you can still peruse tables of homemade soaps and essential oils, plenty of baked goods like turnovers, breads and pies, and pick up Mason jars filled with fresh-cut wildflower bouquets. Sip on a cranberry lemonade and shop locally sourced honeys and jellies, or check for local artists who perch by the bronze Tortoise and the Hare statues (little tributes to the Boston Marathon, which finishes each year down the street).
It’s not a traditional farm stand, but it deserves all the applause, oohs and aahs it gets. The Boston Women’s Market started as a one-time event in 2017 and has since blossomed into a professional network for female entrepreneurs, artists and makers in the greater New England area. Events hosted by the BWM provide space for anywhere from 25 to 50 vendors at five to seven events throughout the year, and vendors bring goods like homemade candles, body butters, paintings and illustrations, jewelry and embroidery. Each pop-up event brings new goodies and surprises to find, like cheeses, wind chimes and honeys. The energy is electric and inviting, and it’s bolstered by the network’s frequent encouragement to bring families, kids and dogs. The network also posts regular “Meet the Maker” stories online, showcasing inspiring stories and interviews from local business owners and artists.