Bay Area Bites Guide to 10 Farmers Markets in the North Bay

About half of the vendors sell produce at the Sonoma market. (Kelly O'Mara/KQED)

This story originally ran on July 26, 2015. It was updated April 28, 2017.

It's that time of year: farmers market season. While many markets have become year-round affairs, offering local produce and baked goods all months, there's no question that in the summer the wealth of homegrown bounty overflows. With so many farms and ranches in the North Bay, the markets in Marin, Sonoma, and Napa are among the best in the Bay Area. They range from small, produce-focused set-ups to huge events attended by everyone in the community.

Many of the markets also accept EBT (electronic benefit transfer), California's version of food stamps. In fact, most of the markets also offer a "market match," meaning that those who spend their EBT dollars on fresh produce or meats will get extra money to spend while there.

Looking to shop fresh and local? It doesn't get more local, fresh, or tasty than many of these markets. Start with these, some of our favorites in the North Bay: from the small jewel in Healdsburg to the third-biggest market in the state right in San Rafael. If we missed your favorite on the north side of the Golden Gate, just let us know in the comments.

MARIN

The Point Reyes Farmers Market holds the title of being the first 100% certified organic farmers market in the Bay Area. Although it's fairly small, with just 22 vendors and only a handful of produce stalls, the quality is top-notch. That shouldn't come as much surprise, since Point Reyes itself is situated in the heartland of Marin farms. Along with produce, the market is home to a number of local merchants, who sell bread, flowers, and even animal hides. While the market is primarily focused on food, and often merges with the foods on sale inside Toby's Feed Barn, there are also kids programs in the garden, book giveaways once per month, and music for the adults. At 11 a.m., local chefs do demonstrations using food from the market.

Sponsored

Point Reyes Farmers Market
Toby's Feed Barn parking lot [Map]
11250 CA-1
Point Reyes Station, CA 94956
Hours: Saturday, 9 a.m.-1 p.m. in summer, starting in June
Number of vendors: 22 vendors
EBT: Yes, market match - spend $10 and get $10 extra
Facebook: Point Reyes Farmers Markets
Twitter: @prfm
Instagram: ptreyesfm

Started over 30 years ago, the Marin Farmers Market is now the third biggest farmers market in the state. Held in the parking lot behind the Civic Center in San Rafael, the market is so popular that Marin County voted to approve a permanent home for the farmers to sell their wares on a rotating basis. (Funds still have to be raised for the new home to be completed next year.) While the Agricultural Institute of Marin (AIM) runs both a Thursday and Sunday morning market at the Civic Center, it's the weekend event that draws the massive crowds. Of the 240 vendors, over half are agricultural, but there are also craft tents as you enter by the kids area and prepared food tents/trucks -- a sandwich from The Farmer's Wife will fuel your shopping. About 50% of the agricultural vendors are certified organic, according to AIM, and most are from the Marin-Napa-Sonoma area. The Institute also began running an audit program, where it verifies that everything each farmer says they grow, they actually grow. While the specific make-up of the market varies with the seasons and weekends, you can always find top-quality produce, meat, cheese, and interesting prepared foods, like baked goods, olive oils, and honey.

Marin Sunday Farmers Market
Parking lot behind the San Rafael Civic Center [Map]
Civic Center Dr, San Rafael, CA 94903
Hours: Sunday, 8 a.m.-1 p.m. year-round
Number of vendors: Around 240
EBT: Yes, market match - spend $20 and get $10 extra
Facebook: Marin Farmers Markets
Twitter: @EatLocal101
Instagram: AIM_farmers_markets

Across from the Golden Gate Ferry terminal in Larkspur, the Marin Country Mart Farmers Market runs every Saturday in the shopping center's parking lot. Though it briefly went on hiatus when the shopping center changed ownership in the late-2000s, the market has grown to include a number of organic and sustainable produce vendors. It also has baked goods, like the breads from Rustic Bakery, which has a store location inside the shopping center, and prepared items like donuts and sandwiches. The popular Santa Rosa Seafood may be the most-visited stall; it typically has a line around its tent. If it hasn't sold out by the time you get there, try their smoked salmon. Many families choose to make the market a weekend activity with music time for the kids and food to stock up on for the adults.

Marin Country Mart Farmers Market
Parking lot at the Marin Country Mart [Map]
2257 Larkspur Landing Cir
Larkspur, CA 94939
Hours: Saturday, 9 a.m.-2 p.m. year-round
Number of vendors: About 25
EBT: No
Facebook: Marin Country Mart Farmers Markets
Twitter: @MCMFarmerMarket
Instagram: farmersmarketmcm

Under the giant redwood trees in Bolinas Park, the Fairfax Community Farmers Market is truly a community gathering spot in the summer. While the market is relatively small, much of the town comes out to enjoy the music and have dinner from one of the food tents. Lagunitas Brewing Company also offers a beer tasting, so you can make a night of it. Some chairs and small tables are provided, but you can also bring your own blanket. Oh, and while you're enjoying your evening, you might as well buy some food from local farmers too. A handful of local organic produce vendors sell their wares. There's also a range of bakery items, including gluten-free cookies and brownies. Or, you can check out the geologist's booth for some precious stones and gems.

Fairfax Community Farmers Market
Bolinas Park [Map]
124 Bolinas Road Fairfax, CA 94930
Hours: Wednesdays, 4 p.m.-8 p.m. May 2-Sept. 27
Number of vendors: 40, with about 25 any given week
EBT: Yes, market match - spend $10 and get $10
Facebook: Fairfax Community Farmers Markets

SONOMA

With a number of local chefs that stop by and high-quality produce, the Healdsburg Farmers Market has gotten a reputation for being a hidden gem. It started with just a handful of local farmers selling their products 37 years ago, but has grown and has been in its current form for the last decade. The Wednesday evening market takes place at the parking lot on North Street, between Grove and Foss Streets, with the Saturday morning market across the street. Even after all these years, the focus is still on the farmers and the produce. The market doesn't have much in terms of the ancillary bells and whistles that some of the more festival-like markets boast. In fact, the organization's bylaws allow it to have only five non-food or non-agriculture booths out of its 60 vendors. Those five currently include ceramics and salvaged wood pieces. While only about four of the vendors are certified organic, nearly all of them come from within a 10-mile radius of the market. This is as local as it gets.

Healdsburg Farmers Market
Saturday market takes place at the corner of North and Vine, the Wednesday markets are across the street [Map]
Vine St & W North St, Healdsburg, CA 95448
Hours: Saturday, 8:30 a.m.-noon May-November; Wednesday, 4-7 p.m. June-October
Number of vendors: 60 vendors
EBT: Yes, market match - up to $20
Facebook: Healdsburg Farmers Markets

Until it moved to the Wells Fargo Center for the Arts a few years ago, the Santa Rosa Original Certified Farmers Market took place weekly at the Veterans Building for over 40 years. Another market, the Santa Rosa Wednesday Night Market, offers more of a summer community event as an alternative to the morning farmers markets at Wells Fargo. The year-round market at the Wells Fargo Center has about 70 vendors, depending on the seasons, and about half of those are agricultural vendors. Since the market has been around for so long, most of the vendors have been there for years. Even the newest sellers have been at the Santa Rosa market for about three years. Some of the stone fruits come from as far away as Modesto -- they simply don't grow up here -- but the majority of produce is from Sonoma County. And you can be sure as soon as crowd favorites, like strawberries or avocados, come in season, they disappear.

Santa Rosa Original Certified Farmers Market
Parking lot at the Wells Fargo Center for the Arts [Map]
50 Mark West Springs Rd
Santa Rosa, CA 95403
Hours: Wednesday and Saturday, 8:30 a.m.-1 p.m. year-round
Number of vendors: 68-75 vendors, rotating
EBT: Yes
Facebook: Santa Rosa Community Farmers Markets
Twitter: @SantaRosaFrmMkt

Although Petaluma has three different farmers markets, the Petaluma East-Side Farmers Market is the newest and the only year-round market in town. The community farmers market group also runs the older summer markets in Walnut Park and on Wednesday evenings in the Petaluma Theater District. But a few years ago, the city wanted to expand the number of events and opportunities on the east side of town. The East-Side Market runs in the parking lot next to a shopping center, with a handful of local Sonoma-sourced produce vendors. About one-third of those vendors are certified organic. The draw of the market includes other services and vendors like food trucks, chiropractic services, and craft items. Snack while you peruse the produce from some of the oldest farms in Sonoma.

Petaluma East-Side Farmers Market
Parking lot at Deer Creek Village [Map]
320 N McDowell Blvd
Petaluma, CA 94954
Hours: Tuesdays, 10 a.m.-1:30 p.m. year-round
Number of vendors: About 40 vendors
EBT: Yes, market match - spend $10 and get $10 extra
Facebook: Petaluma East-Side Farmers Markets

For 30 years, the Sonoma Valley Certified Farmers Market has been the spot for Sonoma farmers to connect directly with the community. Years ago the Sonoma markets split and the town now has two -- one that's more of an evening festival and one that's smaller and without as many frills. This is the frill-free one that's more about the fresh food. Most of the produce is from Sonoma County or nearby, including the selection from Paul's Produce and Oak Hill Farm. Some of the farms have even been coming to the market through multiple generations, as the original farmer's kids have taken over. While nearly half the vendors are agricultural, only a handful are organic. Along with selling their food here, some of them also sell to restaurants. Spring Hill, for example, sells its organic cheeses and butters to Chipotle, but you can also find many of the vendors' produce at more classic establishments. While you're there, just follow your nose to get some warm fresh bread from The Bejkr to go with your produce.

Sonoma Valley Certified Farmers Market
Parking lot at Arnold Field [Map]
241 West First Street, Sonoma, CA, 94999
Hours: Friday, 9 a.m.-12:30 p.m. year-round
Number of vendors: 33-36 vendors
EBT: Yes
Facebook: Sonoma Valley Certified Farmers Markets

While this community event has been around for about 25 years, when the two Sonoma markets split a number of years ago, the Valley of the Moon Certified Farmers Market took over as the fun evening festival market. Located right on the plaza lawn by City Hall, the Tuesday evening market is so popular you might have to get there early to claim a good spot in the grass by the band. But it's not just food trucks and goodies for the kids. The adults will enjoy the local produce stands. About one-third of the 60 vendors are farmers and around 20% of those are certified organic. Just remember to buy your produce before you start having too much fun dancing to the top-notch entertainment or cheering on the zucchini races.

Sonoma Valley of the Moon Certified Farmers Market
City Hall Plaza [Map]
No.1 The Plaza
Sonoma, CA 95476
Hours: Tuesday, 5:30 p.m.-dusk May-end of September
Number of vendors: About 55-60
EBT: Yes
Facebook: Valley of the Moon Certified Farmers Markets
Twitter: @vomcfm

NAPA

For about two decades, the Napa Farmers Market has been a place for locals to sell what they grow and make. And, given the farmland in the area, you know it has to be good. The Tuesday farmers market is slightly smaller, but on Saturdays the parking lot across from the popular Oxbow Public Market is the place to be. Try the whiskey-smoked brown sugar or the Wine Country Chocolates. But don't worry: most of the food is more health-conscious than sugar and chocolate. About one-third of the vendors are farmers, selling what they themselves grow. There are only four or five certified organic produce farms, but many of the farms use a number of sustainable practices. While you walk the aisles to find exactly what you're looking for, the kids can enjoy story time at 10 a.m. and a kids' education program the first Saturday of the month. For the adults, there are also chef demonstrations on the second and fourth Saturdays.

Sponsored

Napa Farmers Market
Parking lot across from the Oxbow Public Market [Map]
610 1st St
Napa, CA 94559
Hours: Tuesdays and Saturdays, 8 a.m.-12:30 p.m. April 15-Nov. 21
Number of vendors: Over 100, with about 60-70 on Saturdays
EBT: Yes, market match - spend $10 and get $10 extra
Facebook: Napa Farmers Markets
Instagram: napafarmersmkt

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