Farmers’ markets in Western North Carolina are such a combination of an attraction. First, they are often picturesque, a great way to see the life and the hustle and bustle of the city while getting a little walking in and feeling like you’re connecting with the place.
Second, they support the many small agricultural businesses in our community, both those who raise livestock and farm plants but also secondary businesses making artisan bread, cheese, soups, pasta, and all kinds of handicrafts.
Third, they are a great way to make a night in special, bringing home some fun and even unfamiliar ingredients to make your own Iron Chef challenge in the kitchen as part of a regular night or a calm rest night during a vacation. Finally, they’re often a good stop for a coffee or a meal during your explorations of Asheville.
No matter what your particular reason for visiting one of the many Asheville farmers’ markets, you’re likely to find a lot of amazing food, cool products, and maybe even some live entertainment. Here are our best tips for having a great time and for where to go to find the best farmers’ markets in Asheville!
Don’t forget to check out our web story: The 9 Best Farmers’ Markets in Asheville
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Key Tips for Effective Farmers’ Market Shopping in Asheville
- While some of the more rural markets and particular stalls at the biggest market – the Western NC Farmers Market – may offer great deals, some of the more downtown, urban, and well-publicized markets are going to vary. Many of the best Asheville farmers’ markets aren’t actually a bargain. Instead, you’re getting outstanding quality and local sourcing. If you go in expecting veggie vendors to undercut bargain grocery store prices, you’re likely to be a bit disappointed by the offerings. If you’re going for unparalleled flavor at the price that will help the farmer succeed, then you’ll have more success!
- If you’ll be visiting week after week, look to see if your local market has a weekly e-newsletter. There’s often news about which vendors will be present and any other updates that will help you plan your trip accordingly.
- Similarly, if you go specifically for a kind of cheese or a loaf of bread, look into the vendor’s own website or social media page. There’s a chance that you can pay ahead of time, and they’ll reserve your order for you. Not every vendor is doing this, but it’s a nice way to give them a guaranteed sale and you the exact loaf of cinnamon brioche or pound of endives you wanted.
- Try a bit of an Asheville farmers’ market scavenger hunt. Find one ingredient you’ve never cooked with and then do some recipe research online to make it (this is great with kids who are at least slightly adventurous eaters and budding chefs). Go in with a goal like, “I want the ingredients for three meals this week,” or “I want all the ingredients for my Sunday brunch meet-up to be from the market.” Not every market has everything that most people buy per week in groceries, so going in with these more simple goals can help you start making more locally grown salads, getting creative with local ingredients, or supporting local producers of your favorite value-add items, from pickles to kombucha.
- Remember that many of the best farmers’ markets in Asheville will include lots of options if you just aren’t a cook at all. Some of the excellent easy-prep items include pre-made soups from 18 Chestnuts, hand-rolled pastas, and already-baked breads and pastries. You can put together a very impressive spread as a host if you just assemble charcuterie, cheese, locally-made bread, and crackers, and let everyone go to town. Get a little local honey if you want to be just that much fancier!
- Learn before you go whether a market is rain or shine. While plenty of visitors still tromp between vendors in a drizzle, some markets don’t have an option for moving everyone inside, so they may choose to shut down the market on a really stormy day. Following the market itself on social media can be the best way to get easy updates before you make the effort to head out with your shopping list.
- Shopping at many of the Asheville farmers’ markets may not be the fastest experience ever – there’s no self-checkout line to make everything seamless! Try to embrace the fact that the great stands at these markets may have a bit of a wait. A great way to embrace the slow-food movement is to bring a friend along for the trip and catch up on life together while you wait for hard-working artisans and farmers to ring up the other customer’s purchases and get ready to help you.
- Can’t make it to the actual market during your stay in Asheville? The internet is a beautiful thing. Many of the vendors who are regular features at the farmers’ markets in Asheville also have brick-and-mortar shops or feature their goods at other people’s shops. For instance, Dynamite Roasting is both a vendor at the Black Mountain Market (at the time of writing), and they have their own Black Mountain coffee shop you can visit. Don’t let the once-a-week or only-during-the-warm-season nature of Asheville’s farmers’ markets be the reason you miss out on excellent local goods!
The 9 Best Farmers’ Markets in Asheville
1. Enjoy Tree-Lined Shopping at the North Asheville Tailgate Market
On beautiful summer days, you can be up early and pulling into a parking space on the UNC Asheville campus right when the North Asheville Tailgate Market opens, and you’ll still be part of a crowd descending on these vendors – it’s just that popular.
Parking any later in the day can be a challenge, with narrow university campus roads and lots of fellow shoppers carrying their reusable totes. Don’t let the crowd put you off this market, though – some of the highest-quality vendors in town sell here, and their items are so delicious that you’ll be thrilled to come back for more.
Grab a pastry from Old World Levain’s truck, listen to bluegrass music, and find an 18 Chestnuts soup to take home. You’ll be amazed at how calm shopping in Asheville can be when it’s at a local market rather than indoors!
2. Visit the Wednesday Market in the River Arts District
I nearly always pair the Wednesday afternoon River Arts District Farmers Market with a stroller walk with my son because the location, in the parking lot of the Smoky Park Supper Club in the River Arts District, is so perfectly located for a wander along the river and through the sculptures and other attractions of the area.
The market itself is lovely – I usually treat myself to a coffee from Bridge & Tunnel’s food truck which is often set up there. There is a covered area that is used more during a wet or cold day, but many of the vendors are out in the parking lot area of the Supper Club, giving the whole space a sprawling and bustling feel.
3. Peruse WNC Farmers Market Every Day of the Week
If you want an Asheville farmers’ market that draws farmers from a very wide radius, especially one that is open every day of the week, you’ve come looking for the WNC Farmers Market. Less an artisan street fair and more a hub for produce sales, you’ll still find the incredible quality you want in a farmers’ market, but at a bigger scale.
You’ll still find handicrafts and products like pickles and bakery items as well in many seasons of the year. Many local restauranteurs shop at the WNC Farmers Market and find the produce that will appear on the fanciest plates in the Asheville food scene.
You too can benefit from the bounty, though the number of stalls open and selling will obviously vary with the seasons. Find something new to try today!
4. Experience Small Town Charm at Black Mountain Tailgate Market
On the other end of the spectrum, you’ve got the Black Mountain Market, a quaint and lovely seasonal Saturday morning market. Here you’ll find plants, soap, seafood, mushrooms, pottery, crackers, roasted nuts, artisanal coffee, and so much more, in addition to the veggies and fruits that are in season with many of the local farms.
You’ll find a lively and pleasant community, often with live music, as you shop for the tastiest items in season. You’ll notice that lots of the visitors are regulars who come for their weekly eggs or bread and get to know the people who create their food!
5. Enjoy a Downtown Stroll at Asheville City Market
This market, which began as a pilot project in 2008 to give more opportunities to farmers and other agriculture workers, is a thriving example of local Asheville at its finest.
This seasonal Saturday market literally shuts down the street and fills up with vendors of all kinds, including many kinds of produce, dairy, soap and wellness products, beeswax, bread, pies, coffee, seafood, pasta, kombucha. There’s even ready-made food at food trucks to keep your mouth from watering too much at all the options available.
One of the coolest elements of the Asheville City Market is a program that works with SNAP to double family’s dollars when spent on fresh fruits and vegetables. Often, farmers’ market produce isn’t twice as expensive as grocery store produce and lasts longer, meaning that these dollars go farther.
North Market Street between Woodfin Street and Walnut Street closes during the market, so parking is at HomeTrust Bank and the Family Justice Center.
6. Find What You’re Looking For at East Asheville Tailgate Market
The Friday afternoon East Asheville Tailgate Market at Grace United Methodist Church on Tunnel Road is a great asset if you’ll be staying farther out of town and don’t feel like venturing all the way south or west.
Everything from excellent value-add products, like sauces and pimento cheese, to beautiful flowers and fermented foods, is available at this small and mighty market. You’ll be able to find treats like Morsel cookies, and J Chong Eats is a vendor as well if you are too hungry to wait till you get this food home to cook.
One of my favorites on a hot summer’s day is to stop for a Buggy Pop, an ice pop stand with flavors like Vietnamese Iced Coffee and Strawberry Mint.
7. Are You Out West? Visit Enka-Candler Tailgate Market!
Enka-Candler Tailgate Market is technically outside of Asheville, over the border in Candler, and it has a cool structure: it’s a market run by Asheville Farmstead School, and some of the proceeds of the market create scholarships to the school, and the other bit is given back to the community, so it’s a totally non-profit initiative.
Vendors, of course, aren’t all non-profits but are indeed local residents who are providing goods and services in their own community. With a pizza vendor, a photographer, a folk medicinals vendor, and even produce grown right in the schoolyard itself, you’ll find all kinds of lovely things at this market, as well as both vendors who don’t go to any other Asheville farmers’ markets and vendors that are common and well-loved parts of other farmers’ markets in Asheville.
Support kids, eat great, and have a nice Thursday afternoon: What’s not to love? Be aware that it runs from May to October, a fairly narrow season compared to year-round farmers’ markets.
8. Head North on Wednesdays to the Weaverville Tailgate Market
Hosted at the new Community Center overlooking beautiful Lake Louise, the Weaverville Tailgate Market is a Wednesday afternoon market that really can be a whole experience for you and your family.
Between shopping for fresh produce and local goods, you can take kids down to the Lake Louise playground, fish in the lake, or take a brisk stroll around the waterfront. While not as large as the city markets, this is a far more idyllic setting that will capture you and give you a much more small-town feel.
Find treats like microgreens, dairy, bread, mushrooms, art, honey, seafood, and flowers, in addition to your produce staples from local farms.
9. Enjoy the Fruits of West Asheville at the Tailgate Market
One of the things I love about the best farmers’ markets in Asheville is that they are truly focused on great products for the customers and great experiences for the farmers, many of whom have to compete with huge national companies if they don’t have community markets available.
West Asheville Tailgate Market, for instance, accepts donations from the community in order to keep their vendor fees as low as possible, and they also use volunteers who are passionate about the market to keep their operating costs down.
The market runs from April to November on Tuesdays in the afternoon, from 3:30 pm to 6:30 pm (at the time of writing) and features all kinds of fruits, vegetables, meats, honey, seafood, dairy products, and live plants. They also have many “value-add” items, from bread to pretzels, sauces to herb and spice mixes, and so much more.
There you have it! The 9 best farmers’ markets in Asheville, NC. Did we leave out any cool Asheville farmers’ markets? Let us know so we can add them to the list!
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