First Timer’s Guide to Sacramento's Downtown Farmers Market

By Kelly Conroy

The downtown farmer’s market is hardly something new for Sacramento. It runs every Sunday from 8:00 a.m. to 12:00 p.m. all year long and pulls people in from far beyond our grid.

But if you’ve never been, your first time can be intimidating.

Source: SacTown Magazine
Source: SacTown Magazine

There’s a reason we pay extra at restaurants that create menus with local, seasonal, organic produce – it’s hard to do! So many leafy greens, so many vendors, so many food-related buzz words!

So, here are some tips to make your inaugural visit to the bustling market under the freeway a successful (and enjoyable) one.

  • Bring cash in a mix of smaller bills. On more than one occasion I’ve needed a vendor to break a $20 so that I could buy 50 cents of onions from them. I’m not fluent in farmer’s market etiquette, but that feels like poor form.
  • Pack a canvas bag or two. There are plastic bags galore at almost every stand if you need them, but you’re already making environmentally conscious decisions by shopping at the market, so why not forgo the plastic while you’re at it?
  • Leave the dog at home. Even though it’s an outdoor event, dogs are not allowed in the downtown market. I’m sure it has something to do with health code, but I giggle every time I think about all the free samples that would go to our four-legged friends.
  • Try to avoid driving there. The parking lot and streets leading to the market can get pretty cramped. If you can bike, walk, or use mass transit, it can make your initial entrance into the market a bit easier. If you have to drive and park, just know that the crowds of cars really start to roll in around 10:00.
  • Immediately find the bread vendor and buy a pretzel croissant. And while you’re devouring that because it’s the best thing you’ve ever tasted, peruse the puff pastries filled with berries and cream cheese in case you need another.
  • Try all of the samples. It’s a great way to taste a new fruit or veggie and you can be sure you’ll actually eat it after you buy it.
  • Ask the vendors if you don’t know what you’re looking at. They’re experts when it comes to the product and I promise they are all really nice. I’ve even been given recipe recommendations before!
  • Remember that it’s not just vegetables. You can buy eggs, fish, beef, chicken, pork and even oysters! Get creative. Maybe you even want to try locally raised rabbit…
  • Save some money for an extra treat like goat cheese or artisan jam! It’ll be so worth it.

Even if you don’t end up with a cohesive menu of ingredients, the farmer’s market is a great place to try something new. You’ll get a visual for what’s in season throughout the year and you might even find a new favorite vegetable (my farmer’s market discovery was beets!). There will be hipsters and strollers and tiny old ladies with push carts, and while that makes for a serious lack of personal space, it leads to great people watching around great food.

And really, what more could you want on your Sunday morning?

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