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5 Ways to Explore the Farmers' Market Capital of the U.S.

There's so many more farmers' markets to explore than the Ferry Building's

Home to the first farmers' markets in California, San Francisco has set a national blueprint for connecting farmers directly to consumers. Over the years, the city’s farmers' markets have also come to be proving grounds for fledgling independent food vendors serving prepared food, many of which grow into full-scale brick-and-mortar businesses. Here are the five best San Francisco markets to sample and buy beautiful produce, eat a good hot meal, and enjoy the scenery.

1. Ferry Plaza Farmers' Market

Ferry Plaza Farmers' Market

The triweekly Ferry Plaza Farmers' Market is the biggest in the city—particularly on Saturdays, when the strollers and families turn out in droves. The midweek markets are also popular, drawing lines for hot food options from popular restaurants like Wise Sons Deli and Tacolicious. At each edition you’ll find a rainbow of produce, fresh meat, and seafood, and adventurous items like chocolate covered insects, all in view of one of the most scenic backdrops you can find in SF, the Bay Bridge. Buyer beware: The permanent stalls and shops inside offer even more enticing ways to spend all your money in the pursuit of cooking and eating. — Tue/Thu 10 a.m.–2 p.m. & Sat 8 a.m.–2 p.m. | website

2. Alemany Farmers' Market

Alemany Farmers' Market

The oldest farmers' market in California, Alemany is a traditional favorite for chefs around town (though you’ll also spot many of them at the Ferry Building as well). It’s a no-frills environment that has stayed hipster-resistant and extremely economical—come here for the best bargains, especially toward the end of the day. There’s so much to love about the 100 or so vendors that gather here, but do not miss out on having breakfast or lunch from El Huarache Loco, a Mexico City street food specialist. — Sat 6 a.m.–2 p.m. | website

3. Stonestown Farmers' Market

Stonestown Farmers' Market

Stonestown Farmers' Market is located across the street from Stonestown Galleria, a large shopping mall anchored by Macy’s and Nordstrom department stores. The market outgrew the mall parking lot a few months back and its new location across the way is bigger and better than ever. This family-friendly market features musical performances and a bouncy castle for the kids. The latter will keep them occupied as you secretly scarf down the baked goods or hot dumplings you don’t want them to keep begging for. Bonus: A majority of the produce vendors sell organic fruits and vegetables. — Sun 9 a.m.–1 p.m. | website

4. Fort Mason Farmers' Market

Fort Mason Farmers' Market

A perfect activity either before or after a Sunday stroll along the Marina is the Fort Mason Farmers' Market. This market skews practical and is loaded with produce options as well as hot food like Nuernberger’s German Sausages. You may find that fussy-fancy choices are at a minimum here, though it would be a mistake to miss out on a dairy-free ice cream sandwich from Green Girl Bakeshop or a garden spice bagel by Leaven. — Sun 9:30 a.m.–1:30 p.m. | website

5. Heart of the City Farmers' Market

Heart of the City Farmers' Market

The only independent and non-profit farmers' market in San Francisco, Heart of the City takes place in the shadow of City Hall and aims to bring healthy food to an area which is otherwise considered a “fresh food desert.” Since it started in 1981, the market has been a magnet for Asian farmers, who grow specialty items you won’t find in the grocery store, and for florist-worthy flowers. The market runs twice weekly, but if you want to try some particularly creative hot food, go on Wednesdays, when Copper Top slings wood-fired pizzas and Hella Vegan Eats serves up an array of hearty savories and sweets. —Wed 7 a.m.–5:30 p.m. & Sun 7 a.m.–5 p.m. | website

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