Top 5 Farmers Markets for Chefs in the Seattle Area

LM Archer for Foodable WebTV Network

LM Archer for Foodable WebTV Network

As a busy chef or restaurant owner, why schlep to shop at your neighborhood farmers market instead of filling out a wholesaler order form? According to a recent USDA report, demand for locally sourced food has reached an all-time high, with current consumer spending at $12B. An additional 2015 USDA Study counts over 8,000 farmers markets in 2014, up 180 percent since 2006. 

For culinary professionals, farmers markets offer a variety of fresh, sustainable ingredients for any menu. These edibles typically eschew pesticides, additives, hormones, or antibiotics. Most eggs, milk, cheese, and meats derive from animals fed with natural grass and grains while raised in stress-free environments.

Farmers markets render more than just healthy, high-quality fare at affordable prices. They also present clientele a valuable opportunity to foster ongoing relationships with small farmers and producers.

Seattle consistently ranks high nationally among cities featuring farmers markets. Here, Foodable TV reveals Seattle’s Top 5 farmers markets for chefs:

Pike Place Market | www.pikeplacemarket.org

Rachel the Pig gives the Space Needle some serious competition. This bronze pig sculpture stands as both the sentinel and cultural icon for Pike Place Market.

Voted “#1 Farmers Market in America” by Business Insider in 2014, Pike Street Market overlooks Elliot Bay in the heart of downtown Seattle. For chefs and restaurant owners alike, Pike Place Market delights the senses and inspires the palate. Stalwart highstalls overflow with area abundance, including Rick’s Wild Mushrooms, tender of wild harvest mushrooms, truffles and huckleberries, Mech Apiaries, and Eggs & More Toutle River Ranch.

Founded in 1907, the vibrant venue invites visitors and natives alike seven days a week, 362 days a year. Pike Street Market also extends Express Markets at City Hall, Pioneer Square, International District, First Hill, and South Lake Union. These satellite markets serve as pushcart ambassadors to urban pockets that lack access to farm-fresh produce.

Another boon includes commercial state-of-the-art Pike Street Market Atrium Kitchen. Here, celebrity chefs present sold-out cooking demonstrations and popup classes like Chanterelle Mushrooms with Cucina Casalinga, Pie School with Kate Lebo, and a Pumpkin Carving Workshop for Grown-Ups.

A snapshot from the Capitol Hill Farmers Market | Instagram, @seattlefarmersmkts

A snapshot from the Capitol Hill Farmers Market | Instagram, @seattlefarmersmkts

The Neighborhood Farmers Markets Alliance | www.seattlefarmersmarkets.org

Neighborhood Farmers Market Alliance took root in 1993, when Chris Curtis and volunteers created the popular University District Farmers Market

In 2015, University District Farmers Market made USA Today’s “Top Ten Readers’ Choice Farmers Markets,” and appeared on the “Rachel Ray Show.”

As Curtis explains in her Rachel Ray interview, “We really, really pride ourselves on bringing in the very best quality. That’s something that we do ourselves by doing farm visits and knowing the best farmers and the best products. Going to a farmers market will give you your absolute best opportunity to buy the best quality from the most farmers, so right there, you’re already kind of ahead of the game. It’s better than going to [a typical grocery store].”

Other Neighborhood Farmers Markets include Capitol Hill Broadway, West Seattle, Columbia City, Lake City, Phinney and Magnolia, where suppliers like Cascadia Edible Landscapes, Left Foot Farm raw goat milk and duck eggs, Wild Hare Organic Farm, and Seabreeze Farm meats stimulate cooks’ creative juices.

This Seattle consortium rewards Seattle chefs who shop them. Perks include special chef parking and shopping hours, carts, and easy-to-access, hyperlinked vendor lists, itemized by type, on each market website. The Neighborhood Farmers Market Alliance also encourages chefs to present seasonal cooking classes and demonstrations as another means of increasing interaction with the locals.

Their annual Incredible Feast fundraiser pairs 24 area chefs with market farmers for an evening of gourmet nibbles, games and gourmet prizes, silent auction and merriment benefiting the Good Farmer Fund, Neighborhood Family Markets and Fresh Bucks programs. Guest chefs each showcase a signature dish using raw ingredients provided by area purveyors. 

Fremont Sunday Market | www.fremontmarket.com

Fremont Sunday Market pays zany homage to the vibrant European markets encountered by founders Jon & Candace Hegeman during travels abroad. Family-owned and operated since 1990, Fremont Sunday Market boasts one of the longest runs in the annals of Seattle neighborhood markets, inspiring a host of spin-offs, such as Georgetown, Queen Anne, and Interbay markets.

Built upon a sense of community, common sense and courtesy, Fremont Sunday Market embraces a quirky, effusive, artistic vibe befitting the neighborhood. Specialty foodstuff sellers rub stall space with street eat vendors, vintage & antique, art & fashion, world imports, home and garden, collectibles, music, and ambiance dealers, all in a spirit of bonhomie.

Chanterelles at Ballard Farmers Market | Instagram, @sfmamarkets

Chanterelles at Ballard Farmers Market | Instagram, @sfmamarkets

Seattle Farmers Market Association | www.SFMAmarkets.org

Seattle Farmers Market Association includes markets in Ballard, Madrona and Wallingford, each a compact “town square” promoting fun, family-oriented hangouts for folks to buy and sell produce in a spirit of cooperation and camaraderie.

Each neighborhood market employs a blog to post new items, menu ideas and recipes.

According to Kim O’Donnel, author and Social Media and Content Coordinator for SFMA, “Ballard [Farmers Market] has a long history with Seattle chefs — from those right in the neighborhood — Jason Stoneburner, Renee Erickson and Ethan Stowell, to name just a few — to Greg Atkinson, who comes over on the ferry from Bainbridge to pick up meat from Skagit River Ranch for his restaurant, Marche.”

O’Donnel adds, “Ballard Farmers Market is known among culinary professionals as the go-to source for an enormous variety of locally grown and raised ingredients…What you can find at Ballard is staggering — saffron, fiddlehead ferns, mayocoba beans, sea beans, duck, chicken and quail eggs, freshly milled flour, goat's milk, sheep's milk yogurt, reishi mushroom coffee — I mean, the list goes on and on, and for folks who cook for a living, it’s impossible to walk away without a deep appreciation for the local foodshed.”

Puget Sound Fresh | www. pugetsoundfresh.org

Puget Sound Fresh works with farmers throughout Washington State. 

First introduced by King Country with King Country Agricultural Commission in 1998, it now falls under the aegis of Cascade Harvest Coalition, a regional nonprofit agricultural education and advocacy organization. What started in 1998 as a program serving the 12 counties that “touch” Puget Sound, has since expanded and is now statewide.

Puget Sound Fresh also assists the public in locating farms and farmers. In addition to their website and annual Farm Guide, they have an award-winning Puget Sound Fresh app, designed in partnership with Pierce County, compatible with both iPhones and Androids. The app connects consumers and industry professionals with over 375 farmers markets, farms, U-pick farms, CSA’s, harvest calendars, events, and recipes.

For commercial kitchens busy orchestrating menu planning and provisioning for multi-location restaurants, this app does the trick.

Looking for something totally out-of-the-box to amp up your menu? Puget Sound Fresh furnishes links to exclusive agroforestry producers, such as Foraged and Found Edibles.

So the next time you question whether shopping at a local farmers market is worth the effort, exploration or investment, think again.