BEST FARMERS' MARKET - 2007
St. Paul Farmers' Market
During the summer, this place is a bounteous paradise of vegetables, but the real clincher that won it the category is this: year-round local bacon. That's right, even in deepest winter, intrepid area growers are out here from 9:00 to noon on Saturdays selling their wares, which in the frozen months are mostly meats, cheeses, and eggs, with some honey and baked goods, a few indoor-grown vegetables like tomatoes, and some homemade products such as soap. We hate factory farms as much as the next guy (unless the next guy is a PETA member), but the thought of a completely meat-free existence is too painful to contemplate. So we're thankful that small Minnesota farmers are willing to commit to treating their animals and land decently, and to start out early in the morning, driving to the city to put everything right where we can get it. And you can get it here easily: The market's near bus lines and freeways, and while parking in downtown St. Paul can sometimes be a challenge, here it's made simple with several free surrounding lots and meters that are free on weekend mornings specifically for farmers'-market use. Starting in late April, the market is open on Sundays as well through mid-November, and as the weather warms, the selection widens. Soon there'll be row upon colorful row of peppers, greens, and berries, more fruits and vegetables added throughout the summer, and always a gorgeous array of flowers (and really good bacon!). There will also be excellent fair-trade coffees and fancy chocolates, and, sometimes, live musical performances. The most telling endorsement of this market, however, is its longevity: This market has been showcasing the best in Minnesota food for 154 years now.