10 Most Impressive College Farmers Markets

Farmers markets are growing like pesticide-free kale these days. They fill a niche created by the growing ranks of conscious consumers in America who want to buy locally and responsibly sourced food and products (and will pay for the privilege). With their disproportionately large share of socially conscious citizens, college campuses are a perfect fit for farmers markets. A number of schools have gotten into the game in recent years; these are our picks for the 10 most impressive.

1. Kapiolani Community College Farmers Market

It might be surprising that a farmers market could survive in a tropical paradise where you can cut fruit straight from the tree and eat it. But this market at Kapiolani Community College in Honolulu hasn’t just survived; it has thrived. In fact, it’s become a must-do activity for anyone traveling to Oahu. All food is Hawaiian-grown, from the tropical jams to the Kalua pork sliders to the macadamia nut pesto pizza. The place is always crowded on Saturdays, so get there early when it opens at 7:30 a.m. and enjoy a breakfast of Akamai oatcakes.

2. The College of San Mateo Farmers Market

Thanks to the friendly climate of sunny California, this market at the College of San Mateo is open “year round, rain or shine,” and twice a week to boot. Every Wednesday and Saturday, area farmers bring their freshly harvested fruits and vegetables, many of them organic, as well as nuts, fresh-cut flowers and more. Regulars rave about the chocolate croissants and other pastries at the Brioche Bakery, and the kettle-cooked popcorn at Roli Roti’s food truck. Even if you’re just there to browse, the friendly vendors and the live music help make this market a fun outing and one of the best markets on the West Coast.

3. UC Davis Farmers Market

Once known as the East Quad Market, the people behind the newly named UC Davis Farmers Market want to see students eat better but “have more fun than walking the produce aisle.” Every Wednesday from April to mid-June, the Silo Union on campus will be packed with raw and prepared food vendors, beer and wine vendors, live musicians, face-painters, clowns, health-food lovers and students with meal plans. Popular items include the apple cider, spinach bolani, and Japanese pears, not to mention the free samples to be had all over the place.

4. Portland Farmers Market at Portland State University

Every Saturday from mid-March to nearly Christmas, PSU hosts this branch of the Portland Farmers Market group between the Hall and Montgomery buildings. Patrons stroll through the park under shady trees as they peruse the freshly plucked fruits, vegetables and flowers from nearby farms. Of course, they’ve got plenty for the dairy lovers as well, with a rich assortment of cheeses, meats and yogurts, much of it organic. It’s Portland, so you’ll want to get some just-landed salmon, and throw in some gluten-free bakery items for dessert.

5. Duke Farmers Market

This April, Duke University kicked off the 12th season of its farmers market, an impressive feat in itself. To celebrate, the market is running a theme of “Local Foods, Global Flavors,” highlighting recipes from countries around the world that feature different fruits and vegetables each week and offering a cookbook of those recipes. But every Friday through July, then every other Friday through September, customers can still count on fresh produce grown on school-owned land or on one of more than a dozen other local farms. For busy faculty and their families, there’s the Duke Mobile Farmers Market that makes buying local meat and produce a snap.

6. Berea College area markets

Agriculture has been a staple at Berea College in Kentucky for over a century, and the two markets there are evidence of the strong relationship. There's the Berea Farmers Market, which is independent of the college and is comprised of local farmers who sell everything from fresh kitchen produce to eggs and chicken to starter plants. Separately, there's also the Berea College Farm, where students learn how to raise their own produce and livestock. Some of the produce is sent to the school’s food services or area restaurants, and the rest is sold at the Berea College Farm Store. On Saturday mornings and Tuesday evenings year-round, students and members of the community can find USDA-certified organic produce, stone-ground corn and flour, steroid-free beef, pork, chicken and more.

7. College of the Canyons Farmers Market

Apparently you can’t throw a rock in California without hitting a farmers market tent. Health-conscious Valencia residents come to this community college on Sundays from 8:30 a.m. to 12 p.m., rain or shine, for the “certified” farmers market hosted here. As part of the Ventura County Certified Farmers’ Market Association (VCCFMA), the vendors pride themselves on offering pesticide-free, organic and hydroponic produce. Bring your reusable grocery bag and stock up on free-range eggs, Persian cucumbers and unpolished Fuji apples. The hummus and pita get rave reviews, as do the fresh berries from Pudwill Farms, and of course, the kettle corn.

8. The Farmers Market at Harvard

Not to be confused with the Harvard Farmers Market in the town of Harvard, this operation is overseen by Dining Services at the famous university in Cambridge. Running from June 19 through October from noon to 6 p.m. on Tuesdays on the science center lawn, the market serves as students’ spot for not just local produce, but also cool features like chef demos and lessons from vendors on working with vegetables you’ve never heard of, like pattypan squash. The market also helps the community by accepting food stamps and WIC (Women, Infants and Children) vouchers, a state nutrition program.

9. OSU-OKC Farmers Market

It turns out that the farmer and the cowboy can be friends after all. (Get it? Because they’re the OSU Cowboys? Moving on...) The market was started by OSU’s Dining Services in summer 2010 to give students and the public access to local products. Throughout the year, the Student Union Plaza is alive with local vendors peddling such healthy fare as organic beef and chicken, grass-fed lamb, buffalo meat, fresh buttermilk and all the fruit and veggies one college student could eat. There’s also a range of unique, handmade wares like candles, jewelry, baskets and skin care products.

10. Healthy Carolina Farmers Market, University of South Carolina

This weekly market on the USC campus was launched in fall 2008 as part of the school’s program to encourage student health. Since that time, the market has steadily grown in popularity to the point where about 1,000 shoppers come by each Tuesday. The staff keeps students coming back by hosting fun activities each week, like cooking demonstrations, a chance to have a photo taken with the school mascot, and a “bike to market” day where patrons can get a free bike tune-up and win prizes.

This article originally appeared onBestCollegesOnline.com, and was reprinted here with permission .