To culminate our agritourism theme, The Travel Word asked everyone in the WHL Group network about their favourite farmers’ markets. The answers we received are as varied as the places they identify, but they all have some common roots: shoppers and vendors love to meet locally to exchange their fresh goods in the open air.
In some countries, farmers’ markets are a premium alternative to highly industrialised and globalised grocery stores. In others, farmers’ markets are the norm, the way of life for the masses.
Which one of these is most like the farmers’ market where you live?
Mercado Central in Belo Horizonte, Brazil
My favourite farmers’ market is the Mercado Central (Central Market) in Belo Horizonte, Brazil. It’s a huge market in the city centre. An old and traditional market, it is one of the biggest in Brazil and one of my favourite places in the city. There you can find all the flavours, ingredients and objects coming from all areas of the state of Minas Gerais. There are more than 400 shops, bars and stands selling all kinds of cheese, vegetables, herbs, the famous Brazilian cachaça and much more – anything you want in terms of food. You can spend the whole morning walking in the narrow corridors and surely you will forget that you are right in the middle of a huge city. The atmosphere of the market will transport you back in time, to a traditional village in the countryside. That’s what I love about it.
Ocna Sugatag Market in Romania
My favourite farmers’ market is in the village of Ocna Sugatag in the Maramures region of Romania. The market is held every Thursday and it’s good to get there early in the morning for a chance to see all the animals that people bring there to sell. In this amazing market, all things Romanian can be bought and sold, from clothes to vegetables, straw hats to live animals, sacks of grain to household objects, huge wooden barrels of plum brandy to silver jewellery made by gypsies. Once I even saw funeral crosses on sale! You will notice that many animals have red tassels hanging from them. Folk wisdom says that this is to protect them from evil spirits. It is a market that is worth seeing before EU regulations change its nature. Usually, by noon, people start taking their animals back home to feed them.
~ Laura Vesa, travel specialist in Romania
Tamu Kianggeh Market in Brunei
Brunei’s most popular farmers’ market is known as Tamu Kianggeh. Conveniently located on the banks of the Kianggeh River in the capital city, the open-air market is the best place to introduce foreigners to Brunei’s history, culture and local products. There are many interesting and surprising items to be found here, such as medicinal herbs, wood with healing qualities, body scrubs for newlyweds, machetes, local handicrafts, home-cooked food and even house pets! Though Tamu Kianggeh is a small market, it is filled with vibrant colours, welcoming smiles and friendly people with big hearts. it is not to be missed during a holiday in Brunei Darussalam.
Gizo Market in Solomon Islands
Gizo is the provincial capital of the western Solomon Islands, and hub for local tourism with ever-expanding needs for fresh food. One of the many enjoyable activities for visitors to our local ‘village stays‘ is joining host families in collecting vegetables from the hillside gardens and rivers. Local wooden and fibreglass canoes travel daily to the Gizo market on the coast, heaped up with baskets woven from coconut leaves and full of fresh produce from outer islands. The produce includes citrus and tropical fruit, vegetables including watercress, nuts, megapode, chicken eggs and even live chickens. Fishermen sell freshly caught seafood including tuna, mahi mahi, reef fish, crabs, crayfish and shells of various types depending on the weather conditions. Some vendors even sell cane furniture made from bush materials.
Santa Fe Farmers’ Market in New Mexico
It’s always an adventure roaming through the Santa Fe Farmers’ Market and other markets all over the state. Fresh leaves and veggies are sought-after in the early morning, as well as flowers, herbs and of course all the squash varieties, not to mention the meats from chicken to bison. In late summer you can follow the “perfume” of roasting chile and be sure to find yourself at the market. It is indeed delicious! In New Mexico, chile makes magic; it unites people from all walks of life and makes them smile looking at the beautiful bright colours. They buy it incessantly. One can’t avoid taking pictures of the smiling giant roasting chile. We love our Farmers’ Market, our chile and our multicoloured cornucopia!
~ Patrizia Antonicelli, local travel specialist in New Mexico
The Farmers’ Markets of Timor Leste
In Timor Leste, farmers’ markets have always been a necessary source of food for the Timorese people. More and more, markets are springing up all over town, reachable on foot by locals and foreigners alike. They are a great place to pick up locally grown seasonal food,including potatoes, carrots, beans, avocados, pineapples, watermelon, limes, lettuce, tomatoes and oranges, just to name a few. In Timor Leste, everything is grown without the use of chemicals and pesticides and you can taste the difference!
Ta’ Qali Market in Malta
On the Mediterranean island of Malta our favourite farmer’s market is in the crafts village Ta’ Qali in the centre of Malta. The local farmers sell their fresh produce from their stalls in the open air on Tuesdays and Saturdays. The market is strictly limited to Maltese products, so anything sold here is not just fresh from the farms but also local specialties worth trying. The variety of products ranges from fruits and vegetables to the traditional gbejniet (goat cheese), Maltese honey, bread, fish and meat products. This is a great option for everyone wishing to try these Maltese delicacies given the market’s central location. The market pairs nicely with a visit to the crafts villages with their traditional Maltese handicrafts.
Punanga Nui Markets in the Cook Islands
When I was fortunate enough recently to spend a month in the Cook Islands, the recommendations from locals were unanimous. “You must go to the Punanga Nui Markets.” So, after checking in at the hotel and hiring a scooter, this was exactly what I did. The Punanga Nui market was abuzz with colourful stalls of fresh local produce, snacks and delicious meals, live music and entertainment, local handicrafts and much more. The market is quite a social event enjoyed by locals and tourists alike and well worth a visit. Alongside some of the traditional local food such as ika mata (marinated raw fish), poke (made with local fruit and cassava/tapioca) and chicken with taro, there are fresh-baked pastries, tropical-fruit smoothies and fresh waffles. Open every Saturday from 7am to noon, the Punananga Nui market stayed on my schedule each Saturday morning for the remainder of my visit.
~ Rob Shortland, CEO of whl.travel
The City of Hanoi, Vietnam
Throughout the city of Hanoi, Vietnam, you’ll find so many markets in every nook and cranny that it would be too hard to choose just one. I love them all. The whole city of Hanoi is brimming with delicious and surprising markets filled with street food. On every sidewalk and corner and in every alley, someone is selling all types of fruit, fried food, delicacies and mystery foods. You can find it all through the night, and the best part is that the prices are low!”
Tamu KPD Market in Borneo, Malaysia
Our favourite farmers’ market in Kota Kinabalu, Borneo, Malaysia, is the Tamu KPD (Koperasi Pembangunan Desa). The open-air market is held on Sunday from 6.00am to 1.00pm, at the KPD Market Complex in Teluk Likas, Kota Kinabalu. Tourists looking for good bargains on local fresh products and crops can drop by and purchase them at a very reasonable price. Another perk – you can get your blood-sugar and blood-pressure levels checked for free!
Grow NYC in New York City
For decades now in New York City, a wonderful organisation called Grow NYC has promoted local agriculture while helping to provide locally sourced, fresh food to residents of the five boroughs. It started as a small gathering of farmers in one parking lot, but there are now over 50 Greenmarket Farmers Markets, including many near hotels in New York. In fact, I am lucky enough to have a small Greenmarket right next door to both my home and one of my current jobs. Yesterday, as I left work, I purchased sour cherries for my ride home and then corn from the vendor on my block. Like other New Yorkers, I can say for certain that I eat better because of these local markets!
Local Markets in Santiago, Chile
While I was living in Santiago, Chile, my favourite farmer’s market was my local, open market near my house. I would fill my backpack at this market every Sunday with goodies for the week. I especially loved that many of the vendors knew my name; I had my special “egg man” and “onion man” that would give me an extra bag of olives or a free watermelon to be nice. Whenever people visited me in Chile, going to the local market was part of the experience I shared. Everyone would gawk at how huge all the vegetables were and the different fruits and veggies available there. I miss that market!
St. Lawrence Market in Ontario, Canada
You wouldn’t think it, but southern Ontario has an incredible array of produce available, like juicy peaches, crisp apples and delicious wines. Toronto, a city of about 5 million people, sits right in the middle of it all, and although not much is grown within its city limits, those of us living in the city have access to an amazing amount of produce through local farmers markets. Farmers come from Niagara to Prince Edward County, and everywhere in between, to sell their produce in Toronto’s famous St. Lawrence Market. The North Building is where it’s at for the best of local fare. In there, you can find everything you could possibly want, including honey, elk, goat cheese, preserves, coffee, free-range and organic eggs and chickens… really, everything! St. Lawrence Market and its local vendors are also featured on Toronto Urban Adventures’ Beer Makes History Better tour.
Ithaca’s Farmers’ Market in Upstate New York
Ithaca’s Farmers Market is very well organised and popular. It has a permanent structure built on the shore of one of our Cayuga Lake inlets, and hosts not only farmers but artisans and local food vendors as well, making it a weekend morning activity for many Ithacans and visitors. The wide selection of fresh local produce, humanely raised meat, jewellery, wine, paintings, photographs, honey, maple syrup, housewares, clothing and so much more makes it a great place for visitors to buy locally made gifts or just mingle with the colourful residents and enjoy the Finger Lakes bounty.
~ Heather Linton, Coordinator at Hotel Link Solutions