If the farmers market in Davis, California’s Central Park isn’t the first in the country, it’s certainly one of the first. Founded in 1976 under the guidance of Ann Evans and Annie Main, the market is arguably the beating heart of the university town.
On Wednesday evenings from spring through fall, the park is packed with families and locals who stroll over for the festival atmosphere during Picnic in the Park. Live music, bouncy houses and jugglers, prepared food stands and, of course, stalls with farm-fresh produce draw residents who for generations have been pausing here midweek in the old-fashioned town square.
Serious produce shoppers come Saturday mornings, when the farms are out in force. Depending on the season, fava beans, figs, nopales (cactus), loquats, microgreens, honey, and what goes without saying: more spring onions, radishes, kale, peaches, and cherries than you carry.
The Davis Farmers Market is today perhaps one of the best examples of the movement to directly market farm goods. Some of the original vendors—Capay Organic, Good Humus Produce, and Everything Under the Sun—continue to sell there.
The Davis Farmers Market Foundation sponsors an educational program in schools that has helped add a farmers market salad bar to the school lunch program.
Ann Evans and Georgeann Brennan produced a cookbook based on the produce there; you’ll find a link to The Davis Farmers Market Cookbook in the site store.
The park is the market’s permanent, year-round home, complete with offices, a structure to shelter the farm stalls, a carousel and playground.
It’s definitely worth a visit. Reach the market from the Interstate 80 corridor between Sacramento and San Francisco. Approach the Davis city center from the Richards exit, go straight up E Street—watch out for the pedestrians!—and find a place to park around 3rd Street. Then just follow the throngs and the shopping bags bursting with farm-fresh goodness.
Learn all about the market and see a video at davisfarmersmarket.org.
Where is your favorite farmers market? Tell us in the comments below.