When you live in a big city, nothing is more welcome in spring and summer than the arrival of fresh local produce at the farmers’ markets. The burst of color and rainbow of fruits and vegetables picked at the peak of ripeness turn grocery shopping into an enriching experience. But not all farmers’ markets are created equal. Some overcharge for produce that is barely a notch above the food found in grocery store chains, which is not what you want at a farmers’ market.
For a market to be considered one of the best, it has to deserve the title. For this list, Culture Trip chose markets whose farmers and vendors are not part of the industrial farm complex and sell a variety of enriching gifts from Mother Earth (such as honey, herbs, fresh flowers, cheese, meat, and more). Markets that offer affordable, sustainably produced food anyone can buy, regardless of economic status, are also highlighted. These markets were also judged “Best” because they are involved in their local communities and are an integral part of the fabric of life in D.C. Here’s the list, organized by the days that they are open.
Capital Harvest on the Plaza – Penn Quarter/Federal Triangle
This market is one of the coolest farmers’ markets in D.C., and it’s right next to the Ronald Reagan Building and International Trade Center. Capital Harvest on the Plaza’s market offers a range of locally sourced sustainable produce as well as an assortment of hip prepared food vendors. The market’s sponsor is Trade Center Management Associates, which manages the Ronald Reagan Center, and they do an excellent job of selecting a fun mix of farmers and merchants, providing the public with free information on sustainable and healthy living, and offering tips and recipes customers can take home to use in their kitchens.
If you head over to the market, you can expect to find fresh produce, authentic Indian street food, homemade kombucha, terrific tacos, fermented and pickled specialties, locally produced candies and baked goods, and a host of other artisanal products.
When: Fridays, 11 am—3 pm May 13th to November 18th
Eastern Market – Capitol Hill
Visit cities like Philadelphia, Boston, and New York, and it’s easy to find historic public markets that continue the legacy of their original function. In Washington, D.C., the only historic public market that carries on its founders’ intent is Eastern Market. Founded in 1873, it features dozens of indoor and outdoor merchants, prepared food vendors and is a National Historic Landmark. On any given day of the week, you can shop for produce grown in rural counties in Maryland, Pennsylvania, Virginia, and West Virginia, grab a bowl of gumbo or hunt for antiques. Here’s a secret that the locals don’t always share: head over to the market from 3–7 pm on Tuesdays for the freshest produce during Fresh Tuesday Farmer’s Market.
When: Monday, CLOSED; Tuesday–Friday, 7 am–7 pm; Saturday, 7 am–6 pm; Sunday, 9am–5pm
New Morning Farm – Cleveland Park
For more than 40 years, New Morning Farm has been growing certified organic vegetables, berries, and herbs in south-central Pennsylvania and bringing them to different locations across D.C. The founders, Jim and Moie Kimball Crawford, grow 60 different crops on their 95-acre farm and can grow year-round by using a heated greenhouse and two high-tunnel cold frames and can preserve the freshness of their produce in their refrigerated packing and storing facilities. They save water by using drip irrigation systems, and the quality of their eggs is second to none, thanks to 300 happy chickens who spend their lives with access to a fenced-in yard, fresh grass, and fresh air.
When: Tuesdays, 3–7 pm, June–September
New Morning Farm – Southeast
New Morning Farm is more than just a successful, thriving organic farm and farmers’ market; they are a busy direct-to-consumer and direct-to-business supplier that gives consumers and businesses access to locally produced food, drinks, baked goods, and other foods produced on sustainable farms, orchards, and cideries. The owners have joined forces with other organic farmers in south-central Pennsylvania and help run a wholesale marketing cooperative called Tuscarora Organic Growers Cooperative, which serves markets, restaurants, and retailers in the PA-D.C. region.
When: Wednesdays, 4–7:30 pm, June–October; when school is in session, the market opens at 3:30 pm
USDA Farmers Market at Night – The National Mall
When the USDA’s Agricultural Marketing Service first started the USDA Farmers Market at Night in 2015, it was a pilot experiment that was the first-ever USDA Farmers Market at Night and was a huge hit from the start. It was also a perfect vehicle to highlight the Headquarters’ People’s Garden, a garden—taken care of by USDA employee volunteers—that produces vegetables and fruits for donation to a local community kitchen.
Since 2015, the scope of the farmers’ market has grown, and it’s now a destination for USDA employees, workers in the area, and local foodies in search of a new and different food experience.
Everyone is invited to head down to the Mall to listen to live music and put together a picnic meal from the vendors at the market. Depending on your mood and palate, you can find local bakers, food trucks, regional farmers selling produce, and artisanal producers selling pickles, jellies, fresh juices, and handmade soaps. The focus is on locally made goods; all of the vendors are D.C.-based with incubator kitchens at Union Kitchen and Mess Hall, and most of their ingredients are from local suppliers in the Chesapeake Bay Region.
When: Fridays, 4–7 pm, June–September
14th & U Farmers’ Market – U Street Corridor
Markets & More run this bustling market, and they specialize in community-based, producer-only markets that source from the Chesapeake Watershed in D.C., Maryland, Virginia, Delaware, and Pennsylvania. Markets & More has deep roots in the community and strives to serve all the residents in Petworth, Columbia Heights, and the U Street Corridor by creating affordable markets that make healthy, fresh food available to everyone.
The 14th & U Farmers’ Market is a friendly gathering place that sells fresh baked bread, local cheese, meat and charcuterie, artisanal gelato, and, of course, ripe fruit, vegetables, herbs, and other foodstuffs. But it’s also where people go for cooking demonstrations and free bike repair services and use their WIC, SNAP/Food Stamp, Senior FM coupons, and Produce Plus vouchers.
When: Saturdays, 9 am–1 pm, May–November
Petworth Community Market – Petworth
Petworth is one of those hidden gem neighborhoods in D.C. and has been a lively community for more than 70 years. “Front porch” culture is alive and well, and the Petworth Community Market is different because it’s a neighborhood non-profit market owned and run by community members. The market’s mission is to offer residents healthy, affordable food, support small local businesses, and to spur on economic, cultural, and social growth for the entire Greater Petworth Community.
Every Saturday, families, young professionals and longtime residents head out to buy from incubator businesses and local vendors. The result is an inviting mix of vendors selling fresh fruits and vegetables, fermented and pickled goods, gluten-free desserts, artisanal charcuterie, natural soaps, Ethiopian coffee, kombucha, craft cheese, and a rotating list of other specialties. Since 2011, the market has also accepted credit cards, SNAP, and WIC benefits.
When: Saturday, 9 am–1 pm weekly, May–November
Bloomingdale Farmers’ Market – Bloomingdale/Eckington
Bloomingdale Farmers’ Market could well be the poster-child for farmers’ markets as change agents, judging from this vibrant, community-focused market. Over the last 10 years, the Bloomingdale neighborhood has transformed into a sought-after location for young professionals, families, and a range of small local businesses, and they all seem to turn up at the market on Sundays. In addition to fresh fruit and vegetables, the market also sells local cheese, pastured pork, beef, goat, lamb, and veal, fresh pasta, plants, and flowers, and they accept WIC, SNAP/Food Stamp, Senior FM coupons, and Produce Plus.
When: Sundays, 9 am–1 pm, May–November
Takoma Park Farmers Market – Takoma Park, Maryland
Despite its Maryland address, Takoma Park Farmers Market made this list because it’s so close to the north Georgia Avenue corridor of Washington, D.C., making it easier for people who live in the Brightwood Park and Petworth areas to get to than other farmers’ markets further south in D.C. This busy, beloved farmers’ market, founded in 1983, was an early adopter in the producers-only movement.
In addition to gorgeous fruit and vegetables, the market offers fantastic programs and events such as pie baking contests and a variety of products from more than 25 vendors, including local merchants Keswick Creamery. You can find libations such as organic, Ethiopian, fair-trade coffee from Blessed Coffee, and this is also the only farmers’ market where you can sample locally produced beer and wine from Milkhouse Brewery, Waredaca Brewing Co., Elk Run Vineyard, and Great Shoals Vineyard. Takoma Park Farmers Market accepts the following benefits: SNAP, WIC, Senior Farmers Market Nutrition Assistance (Senior FMNP), and DC WIC.
When: 10 am–2 pm year-round