A Tale of Two Farmers' Markets

Wednesday, August 6, 2014

Do you like to munch on a spindly carrot fresh out of the garden? Are fresh flowers your way of detracting from the fact that you haven't cleaned your kitchen in a week? Can your tastebuds distinguish between smoked salmon and smoked trout? 

If you answered "Yes!" to these questions, then you (like me) are probably enamored by farmers' markets. Rolling out of bed to watch sunbeams dance on homemade and locally-grown goodies is bliss, in my book.

BW and I have been blessed to live near two particularly exceptional markets: The St. Paul Farmers' Market in Minnesota and Náplavka in Prague. They may be an ocean apart, but they raise the bar for what locally-grown markets should be.

How do they measure up? 

Náplavka in Prague wins points for location; it's on the vibrant Vltava riverbank, where you can sip coffee and watch boats and bicyclists glide by. We're also partial to its mix of eat-now treats like honey wine and Halušky (Slovak dumplings) and take-home gems like free-range eggs and forest mushrooms. There are plenty of places to sit, including a small barge stacked with chairs and tables, so we can stuff ourselves there for brunch and then sizzle up a wholesome dinner later with our purchases. And dogs are allowed!

Negatives? It can get very crowded, and booths tend to be small and squished together. Produce options are limited, too, thanks to the country's geography.

Our favorites are the Croatian seafood guy, dried fruits and nuts, fresh-baked pastries, and Cerny rybiz wine.

St. Paul in Minnesota is plumb full of colorful fruits and veg; its atmosphere is visually gob-smacking and the stalls all look like Monet paintings. It's open-air but has a roof so you can shop rain or shine. The variety of produce is seasonal yet vast, from kohlrabi to tomatillos to summer squash, and the bedding plants and herbs are just as abundant. Homemade products range from maple syrup to cayenne popping corn, and there are plenty of samples to be had. No dogs are allowed, but that's prudent, as people really pack in. 

Negatives? Free parking has been reduced thanks to ballpark construction. Seating is hard to come by, and, yes, it can get quite crowded, too. 

Our favorites are the beef jerky lady, floral arrangements, green beans and cinnamon-creamed honey

The details, because you should visit these places if you can:

Location: the Rašínovo nábřeží riverbank, under the Palackého náměstí tram stop
Open: Saturdays 8:00-14:00
Visitors: "Hundreds and thousands," according to web site
What can you buy?: Fresh fruits, vegetables and flowers according to the season. Dairy products – cow, goat, sheep, mostly cheeses. Freshwater fish – pike perch, carp and eel. Meet and sausages. Free range eggs, inland mushrooms, honey, honey brandy, pastry, spices and fresh unpasteurized milk.
Web site: http://www.farmarsketrziste.cz/en/

St. Paul
Location: Lowertown Arts District - 290 E 5th St, Saint Paul MN 55101
Open: Saturdays 6:00 AM - 1:00 PM, May 3 - November 22, 2014
Visitors: Around 8,000 each weekend
What can you buy?: Fresh, locally grown produce, bakery goods, cheese, poultry, buffalo, venison, beef, pork, lamb, maple syrup, eggs, bagel sandwiches, honey, organic plants and produce, flowers, plants, shrubs and many other items.
Web site: http://stpaulfarmersmarket.com

Thanks to our parental helpers for lending their farmers' market expertise to this post!


  1. I've only been to a farmer's market once when I was in the UK and I definitely loved it! I mean fresh produce, meeting the people who produce them is also such a cool experience to ask question and learn more. I also feel like i'm contributing to society in a different manner - I'm encouraging the local economy and local businesses/farmers! Buying fresh vegs is my favourite, so I would definitely like the St Pauls one :) And I'm not a fan of close stalls, because I'm just so terrible at making my way at the front, etc.

  2. I love farmer's markets and these both seem like great ones! And those dumplings sound heavenly! x

  3. One of the best things about living in Eastern Europe is the dumplings; where have they been all my life?!? Yes, yay to farmers' markets :) I bet you have some great ones in your corner of the world!

  4. Yes, I agree that having dialogue with the grower you're buying from is a special thing. Farmers' markets just came to Prague a couple of years ago; it's great seeing the movement so readily embraced- although, like you, I'm not good at elbowing to the front :)

  5. you called me out on my kitchen ;) these both look like superb markets!

  6. Croatia seafood guy sounds good! I love a farmers market. There is one in Toowoomba, Queensland (tiny town) that I would go to with my best friend. I miss all the fresh produce so much!

  7. I couldn't believe that photo was Prague. It looks straight out of the NW! It looks like an excellent farmers market indeed... but is there kale?!?! (Seriously, if you ever see kale in Prague, holler.... I'll be there in a jiff)
    I sure miss my favorite market in Seattle but thank goodness I've found a decent one in Budejovice or I'd probably lose my mind.

  8. Both markets look grand! Hello, and greetings from Poland. I'd like to invite you to join our facebook group, Expat Bloggers - Europe, https://www.facebook.com/groups/263001027196474/

    All the best!

  9. Hi, Lois! Thanks for the invite; I joined the group. Looking forward to seeing the posts :)

  10. No, dear Cynthia, I have not seen kale. I've never seen it in Prague, though I hear there's a bio produce delivery service now that tends to have all kinds of exotic fresh things - for mucho kc. How cool that Budejovice has a farmers' market now, too - all kinds of great things happening in the CZ :)

  11. Ooooh, Queensland; I'll bet that's amazing. Just bought a bunch of produce today to make soup stock. mmmmm

  12. Ha ha Annie :) I just cleaned my kitchen today and I will never reveal how long it's been since the last tidying...


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