Red peppers at the famers' market.

Shopping at a Farmers’ Market

Indian Corn at the Headhouse Square Farmers' Market.
Indian Corn at the Headhouse Square Farmers’ Market.

Originally published Fall 2009. Photos: John Sommo

For nearly as long as there have been cities, there have been open air markets. As people started to live in closer proximity, there wasn’t room to grow produce or raise livestock. Farmers, who lived in the outlying areas of development and could grow things, would bring their surplus to the city to sell. Shopping at the outdoor market was a part of the daily domestic routine, where you got everything from dinner to news.

The evolution of the supermarket made the open air market obsolete. However, recently, the popularity of the farmers’ market has increased and, for many urban dwellers, shopping at the local market is a weekly tradition. This renewed interest in open air shopping seems to be a result of people becoming more conscientious about where their food comes from and the resources it takes to get the food into the city. Many wish to support the local farm economy and feel better knowing there is a face behind their produce that they can actually speak with. In some cases, people just enjoy getting back to basics and tradition.

In 1745, an outdoor market was established in the Society Hill section of Philadelphia. The market catered to the growing neighborhoods in south Philadelphia such as Queen Village. In 1804, a firehouse, the first in the U.S., was built at the head of the market area, giving the market its current name of Headhouse Square. Over the years, the original market area was demolished and replaced with a gallery of brick columns that support a gable roof and arched ceiling. The market floor, and surrounding streets, are cobblestone making this market very picturesque. Headhouse Square market has been in near continual use since its establishment, making it the oldest such market in the United States and was designated a National Historic Landmark in November 1966.

Veggies at the Headhouse Square Farmers' Market.
Veggies at the Headhouse Square Farmers’ Market.

From May through December, every Sunday, Headhouse Market hosts a farmers’ market from 10 am to 2 pm. Shoppers can purchase anything from fresh bread, produce and meats to jewelry, flowers and handcrafted items. If an immediate delicacy is desired, there is a squeezed-while-you-wait lemonade stand, a scrumptious burrito tent as well as plenty of fresh baked goods to choose from. For a few weeks of the season, the local animal rescue offers pets for adoption as well.

Below is only a preliminary listing of farmers’ markets in cities which also have a lot row houses. Farmers markets are not limited to urban areas, however. To find a location near you, just Google your town and farmers market.

New York City

Greenmarket Farmers Markets
Daily at various locations around the five boroughs.


Headhouse Farmers’ Market
Open Saturday and Sunday, 10 a.m. to 2 p.m., May 3rd through December. At the Headhouse Shambles, 2nd Street between Pine and Lombard streets.

Red peppers at the farmers' market.
Red peppers at the farmers’ market.


Mass Farmers Markets
Daily at various locations around the city.

San Francisco

Various Outdoor Markets
This is comprehensive listing of many outdoor marketing in the San Francisco area.


Baltimore Farmers Market
This outdoor market offers an assortment of items. Located at 212 Holliday St., Baltimore, MD 21202. Tel: 410.752.8632

More Information:

About historic Headhouse Square

The history of Headhouse Square.

New Market at Philadelphia, Pennsylvania.


An assortment of fall squash and onions at the farmers' market.
An assortment of fall squash and onions at the farmers’ market.


Fresh squeezed lemonade at the Headhouse Square Farmers' Market.
Fresh squeezed lemonade at the Headhouse Square Farmers’ Market.



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