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Aug 24, 2013 04:57 AM

Drive-worthy Farmer's Markets?

Just returned from Ireland, where they are really into the Slow Food movement, and their farmer's markets are sooooo much better than ours.

I usually split my time between Phoenixville, Collegeville, and Lansdale. Nice enough as far as they go.

But are there any really "drive-worthy" farmer's markets in the Philly area that are noticeably better than these? I don't care if I have to drive downtown, as long as its good.

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  1. For just local produce, there's the famous no-name farm stand on Smith Road off of Germantown Pike. I've also found the Flourtown Farmer's market on Bethlehem Pike just outside of Chestnut Hill to be worth a drive from Skippack. Collegeville has been trying to develop a weekend market but it's small and very pricey.

    1. The Headhouse Square and Rittenhouse Square markets, on Sunday and Saturday respectively, offer produce that's as good or better than you'll find in most European markets.

      16 Replies
      1. re: caganer

        Well my farmers market standards are pretty high this year, including Lausanne and Paris, which were totally unbelievable. Not even Pike Place Market was comparable.

        Deluca, what's the name of that one in Paris?

        1. re: PhillyBestBYOB

          I've been to markets from London to Sofia and dozens in between. It's not a matter of standards at all.
          Different places have different things. You won't find better peaches grown in Ireland than those grown locally because the fact is, our climate is better suited. You won't find lettuces here like you would in Ireland, because it's too hot here for that. The artichokes grown outside of Barcelona are the best in the world, artichokes grown locally don't do as well. In Paris you won't find chinese long beans or pimientos de padron grown just outside of town but you will here.

          1. re: caganer

            What are you arguing about? I just said even the little local farmers markets in Ireland are better than anything I've seen in Philly.

            Who mentioned Chinese long beans?

            1. re: PhillyBestBYOB

              You said the markets elsewhere were better. I pointed out that markets are different everywhere and have different strengths and weaknesses. I'm arguing that Ireland could not produce the diverse bounty available here, nor would their market support that diversity (and I am right). What's more, am acknowledging that there are things that grow better elsewhere because I understand how silly it is to suggest that everything is better in one place than everything is in another. It is almost literally apples to oranges.
              I clearly mentioned chinese long beans to illustrate the point that our markets offer a more diverse range of produce than you will find anywhere in Europe.

          2. re: PhillyBestBYOB

            Now called Bastille market, previously called Richard Lenoir market, open Thurs and Sunday, 7-1.
            I agree with PBBYOB that markets are far better in other countries, both in size and scope. The above mentioned one, eg, has a stand that sells 4 different varieties of mandarins oranges from three different countries.
            Just back from Asia Minor where visited markets that were both indoor and outdoor and were the size of three Walmarts combined.
            One stand sold over 20 different versions of an obscure Turkish dried pepper.

            1. re: Delucacheesemonger

              The discussion isn't whether the markets are better elsewhere, but rather whether farmer's markets were better. The Bastille market is clearly outside of the scope of farmer's markets in the modern American sense of the term. Again, apples and oranges, just in a different way this time.
              I'd never argue that the food markets are better here, that would be crazy. The proximity to the Mediterranean, the general demand for better food and the correspondingly higher household expenditures on food, among other factors, all contribute to the fact (I think) that food markets are better in Europe almost across the continent. (not to mention the greater cultural importance of food and it's ties to national identity)
              Farmer's markets, on the other hand, are always a reflection of the productive potential of the local environment, demand and the individual whims of the farmers themselves. It so happens that the best places to get good produce in the US are farmer's markets,which are a recent development who's primary competition is sub-par grocery store grade produce. Europe had great markets that were able to compete with the supermarkets and cultures that valued the quality offered and the experience of shopping in markets so there was never a need for an American style farmer's market "revolution."

              1. re: caganer

                I have to believe that Farmer's Markets are better. After spending the last year in CA, I grew to love the Mar Vista farmer's market http://www.marvistafarmersmarket.org/
                It was great to talk with farmers and the direct source of the food. What a treat to buy locally at the peak of freshness, not when things were sitting in cold storage in some warehouse.
                Artisanal cheeses, organic produce, artisanal baked goods and more. I have yet to find a market in PA, specifically in Chester County, Delaware County or Montgomery County that has the same kind of impact that any of the CA farmers markets have.

                1. re: jsbee527

                  After being at the Saturday market in Marin county, l will say it was wonderful, huge, and all people were very helpful, knowledgeable, and the products were awesome.
                  The Ca markets, even the Farmer's Market in L.A. seem, IMVHO, far better than east coast markets.

                  1. re: Delucacheesemonger

                    In California one is almost never more than a day's drive from at least 3 different climate types, each one supporting different types of vegetation. Add in year round growing seasons and the fact that it almost never freezes and CA begins to look like a veggie valhalla but even then, there are parts of the US who's climates and soil are better for growing certain things.
                    The west coast is culturally different than the east, the "vibe" is almost opposite - and that translates into different values placed on health, food, the environment, etc. and that contributes to the quality of their farmer's markets
                    But neither all of Ireland nor the land within 100 miles of Paris could compete with CA either so that, again, isn't really germane to the discussion of the claim the Ireland's farmer's markets are "better" than the Philadelphia region's.

                    1. re: Delucacheesemonger

                      Yes. I believe that the West Coast markets are substantially better bc of the accessible climate zones and better grass roots organization. All the vendors and producers are very knowledgeable and love talking about their passion of great food, produced locally. Personally I love building those relationships knowing where my food is coming from. They love sharing recipes and brainstorming with other foodies. It's a great sense of community. I used to frequent Santa Monica, Venice, Mar Vista and Playa Vista. Each had a "niche" and you could always find a great market any day of the week for the freshest produce, fruits, cheeses and baked goods, even take away foods if you didn't feel like you want to cook.
                      @caganer I miss walking through the Paris markets or any European market, where shopping daily for your food is a lovely lifestyle---like getting your daily baguette from your corner boulangerie vs. the dreaded gigantic supermarkets in the US. There's nothing romantic about finding a parking space, a shopping cart and mass market foods. There is much to be said for the slow food movement.

                      1. re: jsbee527

                        You can talk to farmers here as well - at the Sunday Headhouse Sq. market Tom Coulton seems to spend more time talking agriculture than actually helping customers. The Queens Farm guy loves to explain all about the mostly asian veggies he sells (so does his daughter) - and he's a chemist by profession so he knows a lot about nutrition. The guy from Savoie Organics loves to talk potatoes. If you have a question about tree-fruits the Three Springs farm guy (the shaggy guy - sorry) is happy to talk and I'm pretty sure has an agriculture degree.
                        It's not the greatest market ever but it's a very good market with good, fresh produce available seasonally.

                        1. re: caganer

                          and the Birchrunville people want to talk cheese and veal, and the otolith guy will talk about fishing in Alaska and the Porc Salt guy LOVES to talk pork!

                        2. re: jsbee527

                          Lots of people live this lifestyle in Philadelphia, its very easy if you live in center city or south philly.

                          1. re: barryg

                            Exactly. It's too bad the suburbs don't offer a traditional urban lifestyle, go figure...

                        3. re: Delucacheesemonger

                          That is a fantastic market!

                          I lived in Marin for many years and was always really pleased with that market.

                2. re: caganer

                  The Headhouse Square market last year had mirai corn that was so much better than any corn I've ever had that I would drive an hour to get it.

                3. Not a farmer's market, but a farm market -- I think it doesn't get much better than Pete's Produce in Westtown (Chester County). http://www.petesproducefarm.com/index...

                  4 Replies
                  1. re: CindyJ

                    Regarding Pete's; we had a dinner at Capers and Lemons a very nice restaurant near Barley Mills on the out skirts of Wilmington and they mentioned that they got all their produce at Pete's. All that we had a part of our dinners was fresh and tasty, excellent produce. Thanks for the link.

                    1. re: Bacchus101

                      I was at Sovana Bistro in Kennett last week and had the Local Corn Pizza. The corn, I was told, came from Pete's.

                      1. re: Bacchus101

                        Here's another Pete's lover. Except that I think I gained 2 lbs on their decadently delectable homemade maple ice cream last week. And their marai corn is out of this world.
                        I DO think that some produce of theirs is better than others.
                        I always ask if it is from around here or Peru -- like their asparagus was for example (a no-no with me).
                        I spent a weekend in suburban LA with my daughter and found her farmer's market shockingly higher quality goods than anything I've found around here. ('cept for Pete's marai corn, that is)

                      2. re: CindyJ

                        I love Pete's! Their fresh sweet corn is supplied to many around here. Plus they have La Michoacana ice cream and fruit bars here, unless you are in the mood to drive to Kennett Square. Great produce + love supporting local farmers!

                      3. I wouldn't call it the "Philly area", but it makes for a nice day trip: http://www.greendragonmarket.com/inde...

                        You can get all the fresh meats you want, or buy a cow!

                        1 Reply
                        1. re: SP1

                          Wow! That place looks amazing. A little bit of everything!

                        2. Well, I know many people in my area are totally in love with the Farmer's Market in Wayne on Lancaster Avenue. My opinion--it's ok. (I am spoiled by the markets in France though).
                          It's kind of dirty, if you ask me. And...many of the vendors charge ridiculous prices for mediocre product i.e. there is a baker that sells macaron. The macaron are awful.
                          OTOH, there is a poultry vendor, Rittenhouse Farms I believe it is named that has great chicken and poultry.
                          Sorry I could not give you better information, but I just feel the Wayne FM is way overrated!